She crossed a bridge, and looking down she saw
The little Georgian boiling in a trench of blood.
He hailed her, and holding up his one good arm
He opened his palm to show her two pulpy seeds
Like droplets—one for each time she lost her life.
Then in a taunting voice he chanted some verses.
Poetry was popular in Hell, the shades
Recited lines they had memorized—forgetful
Even of who they were, but famished for life.
And who was she? The little scoundrel below her
Opened his palm again to show that the seeds
Had multiplied, with one for every month
He held her child hostage, or each false poem
He extorted from her. He smiled a curse and gestured
As though to offer her a quenching berry.
On certain pages of her printed books
She had glued new handwritten poems to cover
The ones she was ashamed of: now could he want
Credit as her patron, for those thickened pages?
He said she was the canary he had blinded
To make it sing. Her courage, so much birdseed.
Shame, endless revision, inexhaustible art:
The hunchback loves his hump. She crossed the bridge
And wandered across a field of steaming ashes.
Was it a government or an impassioned mob
That tore some poet to pieces? She struggled to recall
The name, and was it herself, a radiant O.
‘Eurydice and Stalin’ is excerpted from Gulf Music.
Chosen for FSG Poetry Month by Stephen Weil.
A former Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Pinsky was born and raised in Long Branch, New Jersey. In addition to his books of poetry and The Inferno of Dante, he has written prose works, including The Life of David and The Sounds of Poetry.