Friday, April 11, 2014
WHAT HE SAVED
Through decembers blustery cold
and sleet and dead of night
when blasts and torrents scratch
and bite and tear
The vision of a viking in navy suede
and black riders boots
is bearded and smokes hard
upon his pipe
Perchance to ward off the evil gusts.
By the light and warm
and hum of an electric fire
The mighty Norseman sheds his animal skins
and puffs away in wrinkled red and blue
A placid smile upon his Russian countenance
Who has seen the suns
possessive rays upon the bearded one?
Their friendly fingers wrestling at his hair
What of the summers Russian?
Does he shed his denim
and sleep in a black t-shirt in the sun
Oblivious to the outstretched arms of Helios
Till it, too, creeps away unseen?
And does he don his winters leather
and draw in his eyebrows
To meet the onslaught
of decembers blustery cold -
A viking in his prime?
- I wrote this about Ivaan when I was 17. I only wrote one copy, in fountain pen on a sheet of airmail paper, and then I forgot all about it.
Forty years later, a couple of years after his death, I was leafing through one of his journals, and a thin white sheet of folded airmail paper fell out. I've always been surprised, reading his early journals, to find references to myself and my family. Incidents that I'd long forgotten are mentioned, including a reference to Ivaan's first meeting with my father, in 1969. I suppose I must have given Ivaan my only copy of this poem, and I am impressed and touched that he kept it safe for the rest of his life.