The Russian poet Bella Akhmadulina has died. I saw her read once, in the old Project Theatre in Dublin, and was so moved by the way she read her poems in Russian, which reminded me of chanting in a cathedral, that I wrote the following piece, published in my collection The Year of the Knife.
Thank you, Bella. May you rest in peace.
photo credit: www.kremlin.ru some rights reserved.
THE RED CATHEDRAL
–on seeing Bella Akhmadulina perform her work
‘The Cathedral is aligned East to West,
a circle on two rectangles
over a blind spring where pilgrims sup.
Its redstone wings spread North and South.
It greets the rising sun,
and accepts darkness as it comes.
Requiring nothing, it is nothing to itself.
To enter into it
is to be given a hard grain as talisman.
Solitude touches its high, bare walls.
Grass has split the flagstones;
dust swarms in light from the stained glass.
The Cathedral is home to terrains and cities
and those who live in them
as they breathe fumes, travel on shunted trains;
and just now, a woman dressed in black and gold
is the swooned instrument
through whom the Cathedral fills with their song.
High in the dome, a swallow loops and skims
to the soar and whisper
of grief, to the little shuffle of the woman’s fun.
– Philip Casey
The Red Cathedral by Philip Casey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.