Tomas Venclova - FOR R.K.

I only know that it is now over (or nearly) -
this black century, yet perhaps no blacker
than others. Still, it was different in scale.
It was consistent. Bodies became numbers,
souls ground to dross - into nothingness,
so that the mind might triumph. The abyss
touted as hope. I’d say, not without success.

Ovens loyally served the systems of pride.
In a nearby circle it was unyielding ice under
a stone star. The stifling carriages rolled on
towards nothing, westward and northward.
Nothing lasts. Empires' relics sink into dirt,
entwined with tough thistle and dock. While
megaphones fall mute, granite crumbling.

Born to this country, we prepare to depart -
but like Orpheus, we dare not turn around.
What accompanied US? Irony and patience,
very rarely, courage. Rather, a vague sense
you did much less than you should have.
(Is it a nagging guilt, or a sin, the children
won’t forgive us - even if the Lord will?)

These were our choices. Yet we accepted
truth's bitter gift — we didn’t extol death,
watched angels above rails and concrete,
fell in love, turned lights on in the library,
called good and evil by their names, seeing
how hard it is to tell them apart. This we
take into the dark. This is probably enough.