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Excerpts
Andrew Suknaski -
Excerpt from There Is No Mountain:
Selected Poems of Andrew Suknaski

The Mirror
yevsei liubitsky (      -1981)

identity      lost
in life
let this be your
obituary
noting        the awesome
irony        of your name
liubitsky                        "brother to
                        the loved one"

            though you mirrored
            uncle joe      ordering
            millions     to silence
            of earth

            you fated ukrainian
            jew      from vynnytsia
            that sunny summer day
            in '35
            abducted     by three men
            in a black car
            scarcely enough
            time       for brief goodbyes
            with wife       and children
            left forever

            your home becoming
            a luxury villa
            where barber
            makeup artists
            and tailor     maintain
            the subtle     touches
            of you     as mask

            your new life /
            pacifying      delegations
            of miners     and others of
            playing chess
            with strangers     visiting
            you

            you becoming     minotaur
            to that     paranoid
            in monstrous
            labyrinth
            the homunculus
            with yellow teeth
            clacking
            a hopeless    georgian accent
            bent on      pogroms
            a lonely        redhaired
            golem

            of whom you later
            spoke    to someone
            in dushanbe

"Believe me, I looked much more like Stalin
than Stalin looked like himself.

Look at the portrait. Everybody who sees
this famous picture believe it is one of Stalin.
Even the painter thought so. But it was I
who posed for it."

            yes liubitsky
            one has to be troubled
            by inversion
            in common myth
            who really dead-rings for golem?
            who is minotaur?
            one must be haunted
            by the real
            where some are doomed
            to dead-ring     for tyrants

            twin to      the dreaded other
            one     liubitsky
            that you were so     possessed
            by theatre     troubles me
            for you did once
            nostalgically       reveal
            to someone

"My real pleasure was to visit the theatre.
People stood up and applauded,
not the actors, but me, Yevsei Liubitsky.
I mean Comrade Stalin, of course."

            and of course liubitsky
            knowing how men can tragically change
            shameless in the entropy of intentions
            one now must wonder
            … who was it
            sat beside khrushchev
            that steppe night
            while ukraine's greatest actor
            played as traitor?
            that night where uncle joe
            nudged khrushchev
            and whispered
            "only a man who is
            indeed
                        a traitor
                        could play it
                        so well
                        …you know what must be done
                        comrade"

            was it you liubitsky
            or simply one of
            the twenty-four others
            mirroring
            the horror
            of uncle joe who
            couldn't trust
            anyone     let alone
            himself?

The Ukrainian R.N.

suknatskyj's sister     the fiery-tempered r.n.
if there's anything her thin body
cannot stand
it's an incompetent
doctor
or head nurse

by God
she will gather signatures     yes!
she will draft
petitions
petitions
petitions
again and again
year in     and year out
whenever necessary

and like her late mother used to say
by God
vona bude
kliuvaty
kliuvaty
kliuvaty
azh poky khtos pide
"she will
peck away
peck away
peck away
till that person     leavees!"

well by God
the new head nurse one night
saw the perfect chance!
by God that head nurse
was gonna get her licks in
yes    that fiery r.n.
was having major surgery!
and the simple truth was
by God
she had to convalesce     somewhere
and the head nurse
knew the perfect recovery room
she had planned it all      long ago
learning a few tricks from bergman
"ha! that last room in 9 east
where she rolls away the terminally ill
for the final days
that's where i'll have her placed
to come out of anesthetic"

well suknatskyj's fiery sister
opened her eyes
to suddenly wince
then rage
"God damn that bitch!
bloody old hag!"

and by God she rose
with the average difficulty
of one still partially anesthetized
and walked right outta that room
walked right past nurses
staring in amazement!
walked right past that head nurse
stunned beyond words
walked right past her doctor
and right to the public telephone
in the waiting room
and phoned a taxi!

and by God the next day
she was back with a petition
demanding the head nurse's removal
and by God

every nurse signed it!

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