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The 2River View 15.3 (Spring 2011)

Charles Fishman

Burying Lenin

The corpse of Lenin returned from its annual touch-up
this month with a bandage on the right thumb.

— Susan Sachs (Newsday April 14, 1997)

They keep burying Lenin in Moscow     but
his embalmed corpse refuses to cooperate

How well this mummy has been preserved
yet how fragile it seems now: digit by digit
it breaks

The hammer-and-sickle flag no longer flies
in the red sky of the capital     the Internationale

no longer marches — dark-booted phantom —
in the nation's heart     Lenin's body lies on its back
in a black suit

but where is the famous worker's cap that he waved —
delighting the people — and which Vladimir Ilyich

clasped expertly between his enlightened fingers
and the imperious thumb? They have buried
the thumb

and have designs on the fist     But Lenin's body lies
in Red Square     in its coppery tomb: it is here

that the Red Army swore to defend the Motherland
and here that Hitler's Wehrmacht froze in Moscow snow
This is where

the Pioneer children in red bandanas took their oaths
where the cosmonauts saluted before rocketing into space.

Finding Hitler's Head

Darker than you, it says,
without speaking, Darker
than you,
nor will it blink
first     or shift its gaze,
no matter how long
you stare.

As far as the head's concerned,
you aren't there     and will not be;
it disregards your sudden burst
of speed and the creaking gears
of eternity's ship suddenly

Charles Fishman is the author of The Death Mazurka, a 1989 American Library Association Outstanding Book of the Year, that was nominated for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. His more recent books include Chopin's Piano (Time Being Books) and In the Language of Women, to be released this spring by Casa de Snapdragon. (contactwebsite)