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Friday, April 22, 2022


by Thomas J. Erickson


The battle for Madrid [during the Spanish Civil War]… was decided in lecture halls, laboratories, and classrooms at the sprawling campus of University City… Brigaders stacked books in the windows as shields from snipers; bullets usually did not penetrate past the 350th page, so they sought out the thickest tomes of German philosophy and Indian metaphysics. —Dan Kaufman, The New York Review, February 24, 2022, on The International Brigades by Giles Tremlett. 

If a book can stop a bullet
then it stands to reason that words
can unite a world in ways
that are surprising
to its sense of normalcy
On page 351, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky
and Grossman were just getting started
If only the power of the grand Russian novels
of war and peace and crime and punishment
and life and fate could prevail across the borders,
from east to west.
Of course, that’s not going to happen, I think,
as I lie in bed and check Babel’s Red Cavalry
for thickness.

Thomas J. Erickson is an attorney in Milwaukee.  His latest book is Cutting the Dusk in Half by Bent Paddle Press.