Such a powerfully evoking sentiment in poetic verse by the extraordinarily talented ‘Flameinthesnow’.


A train departs from Korosten
heavy with grain from chernozem,
squeals to a halt at Jitomir,
shadows approach the engineer.

They douse the blinking lanterns first,
garrote the guards and seize the train,
shunting it onto a siding,
chanting and stamping, brave Hutsuls.

Latches–flung open–doors unsealed,
sacks and crates fly from hand to hand,
curtains are torn, metal screeches,
hammers clang, all that shifts is stripped.

Never to Kyiv will this train glide,
not without throttle, pins or brakes,
wheels, or valves of bronze and copper,
nor will it serve the Moskali.

Taken in vengeance for their loss–
a bow long strung, golodomor–
Hutsuls, that engine was a life–
sadly granted, a raided corpse.

And yet a marvel haunts these woods:
eased from a coppice, Niavka,
singing, touches the cold iron,
where rose stars blossom in green moss.

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13 thoughts on “diverted

    • I must apologize, I’ve just now saw this comment my ‘little scarlet flower’ 😉 and I’m unfortunately exhausted and the pillow demands my head like the guillotine demands aristocracy. So I cannot, at this moment, give it its full weight that it justly deserves. I’ve only the time to play it twice right now – more tomorrow I promise you my talented Sonya of of the cybersphere; but I enjoyed it immensely so far. The song immediately gave me an impression of something out of Brodsky and his ‘opposite coasts’ if that makes any sense out of my usual silly head. I do wish someday I might become somewhat conversant in this beautiful, deep, and rich language. I have somewhat of an idea as to what ‘Razluka’ means emotionally or internally and the English word ‘separation’ does not do it any justice. I think something like the band Phish’s “If I Could I Would” captures it in English maybe. Okay Ms. Flame, til tomorrow.

      loved the Novalis quote – that boy was my kinda fellow!,I certainly would have enjoyed a drink with him. And the LOTR allusion is always a major plus with foolish me. If you’re not carefully I shall become very suspicious indeed that you’re an elvish queen incognito 🙂

      • In turn, I have another song/tale for you. It struck me that it matches the tone of your blog–perhaps you and Alexander Vertinsky might have gotten along–

        There is a song clinging like a drowsy bat to the dingy ceiling of a dungeon, deep within the labyrinthine palace of my memories, a melody that tickles the spine with an icy narcotic chill and the faint echo of honey, as if a recently extinguished bees’-wax taper has haunted me for over 20 years.

        More than a melody, it is a formerly forbidden message wafting from the beginning of the 20th century, resurrected and embraced by popular artists in Russia during the 1990’s. The song was dedicated to Vera Holodnaya, an elusive figure from the era of silent films, Russia’s first real film star, who appeared in numerous films, although only five remain extant.

        “during the time of the flowering Symbolism with Blok’s cult of the Stranger (translator’s note: or Unattainable Bride) while the Tsarist army was suffering defeat during the first world war….schoolgirls copied poems regarding courtesans, pineapples and champagne…against a backdrop of patriotic bacchanalia, while the empire suffered its death throes, the youth of the country was sniffing cocaine….submerged in a world of illusion, where there were no guards, no hangings, nor the specter of unavoidable revolution…”

        Alyona Sviridova, singing “Your Fingers Smell of Incense…”

        In the center of Moscow, on the Tverskoy, lived the family of Vladimir Holodny: his wife Vera, the dark-haired beauty, her mother, younger sister and two tiny daughters. One day upon the threshold of their apartment appeared a thin, long-necked, haggard soldier, with his legs wrapped in rags, in a stained uniform. He was returning from war, where he served as a male nurse in a field hospital. He brought Vera a letter from the front, from her husband. The soldier’s name was Alexander Vertinsky. He was invited into the parlor, and was served tea. Vertinsky began to frequent the place daily. Once, he recited his poetry and songs. The lady of the house gave her honest opinion: these lyrics would not go anywhere. The poet did not hold a grudge–he had been stricken from the first glance with the beauty of Vera Holodnaya (who had already dabbled in ballet) and offered to help her to try out her skill as an actress, introducing her to a director of his acquaintance.

        (Aside, sotto voce: According to other sources, Holodnaya had already begun her career as an actress, but this is a much more romantic rendering of events.)

        In no time at all, Holodnaya began appearing in film after film. Meanwhile, Vertinsky dedicated a new song to her, and gave her the nickname, Queen of the Screen, and it is under this title that she is known to this day. Vertinsky became a friend of Vera’s family, and of his husband, when he returned from the front, and even played with the children. Vera (Holodnaya) made possible Vertinsky’s first appearance in the Theater of Miniatures, where he exchanged the woolen soldier’s uniform for the costume of a sorrowful Pierrot. Fearing the audience, and afraid of his own face, he covered himself with thick grease paint: lead-white cheeks, blush, a scarlet mouth, and in a mysterious, mooning twilight, he coyly performed songs dedicated to Vera Holodnaya. In one single gesture, Vertinsky managed to convey the irony of his position; he confirmed and poeticized human frailty; he knew how to demonstrate empathy. His female fans tossed flowers at him, while he fled out the back door of the theater.

        Once, Vertinsky showed Vera a new song dedicated to her, entitled, “Your hands smell of incense,” but she waved her arms at him in protest, “What have you done! You should not have! To imagine me lying in a grave–not for anything! This is death, remove this dedication immediately!” Vertinsky was a bit offended: why didn’t she understand his poetic allegory? He removed the dedication, but the theme of the song with death-as-a-bride experienced a runaway success, sung with Vertinsky’s blissfully blasphemous intonation.

        Whether the performer is male or female; the spirit of a young Alexander Vertinsky lingers in the lyrics:

        Oleg Pogudin’s version:

        Vertinsky’s version:

        Were Vertinsky’s lyrics indeed prophetic? Vera Holodnaya, according to official records, died of the Spanish flu during 1919. Rumors circulated of a possible poisoning by the French ambassador, who believed she was a Bolshevik spy. She was mourned by thousands and buried in Odessa. The graveyard where she lay was unceremoniously destroyed by Communists. Finally, in 2003, a statue appeared in her honor in an Odessa park.

        Not long after Vera’s death, her mother and husband passed away, leaving her daughters as orphans. Some say they were taken to Turkey, and that Vertinsky looked for them; other sources indicate they ended up in Bulgaria.

        According to the article in Aleph Magazine quoted above, Vertinsky was contacted in a hotel room in Rostov-on-the-Don, where he had been given a concert. When he received the telegram from Odessa: “Vera Holodnaya is dead,” he tore out the page of the score of the song and wrote: “To the Queen of the Screen–Vera Holodnaya.”

    • Thank you for this extremely poignant and, I should add, quite gothic-shaded unhappy lover’s tale! The truly poetic, in my very non-scholarly opinion, must be grounded upon a certainty; and, like the happy lover, the unhappy lover is just as certain of his undying love for his beloved as that of the beaming happy one.. The tragic Vertinsky no doubt loved his muse, his ‘matushka’, his Vera.

      It does, however, make me wonder though about the timing of his ‘incense’ lyrics, not so much her interpretation. Is it maybe that Vertinsky suddenly underwent a dialectical crisis? After so much horror he no doubt experienced first-hand at the front of that disastrous, inhuman carnage, and utterly pointless war – especially working in the hospitals, upon his returning and setting his gaze for the first time upon a young Vera, and her daughters – what a vision he must have seen! There is perhaps nothing more uplifting to my own gender then the sight of beholding a mother alone with her children.- Not only from the aesthetic sphere but, even higher, the ethical sphere. Combining that with Vera’s obvious feminine erotic attractiveness and then further, contrast it with that ‘unspeakableness’ from which he was returning from, and I ask: If ever there was a possibility to witness the occasion of the birth of a muse it was here – it is Venus emerging from the sea!

      But, it would seem to me that Vera was perhaps more clever than he fully understood. And that Vera viewed deeper, or at least interpreted on deeper plain,more into those lyrics then he might have suspected. Basically, its possible she grasped that he was making a break with his inspiration. That inspiration was never really her as she was – which she probably knew full well; but rather her being transfigured by that idealistic vision his own poetic nature produced. He did not really love Vera, but the Vera painted by his imagination is what drove his passion and creativity. This leaves me then, back to the: why at that time, question? What, at that point, had happened to Vertinsky to cause him to sever, or at the very least begin to sever, the erotic idol of his waking thoughts?

      At that point, if indeed Vertinsky did begin to break from the poetical and became dialectical, there then is a definite parallel with my own thoughts on this blog, which is dialectical in nature. And there then is where I would very much enjoy of few drinks with that enigmatic gentleman. I often wonder if its possible to have a poetic-dialectical nature and what would it mean for the one living with such a make-up? .

      This tale reminds me of, well..I hope one more from those Irish boys won’t be too much ;)…but of one of Bono’s stage ‘personae’. This particular video strikes me profoundly. It is impossible for me to express in language what it evokes within me. . And from what you’ve posted here about Vertinsky makes me think he would recognize something of himself as well here:

      This comment, my dear Ms. Flame, was a joy to read and ponder. And the music, my dear lovely flame, is simply excellent – Goes very nice with a glass of single malt Scotch I might add 🙂 Please do keep this enchanting music coming.

      I was referring to the Novalis quote and the LOTR allusion from your “The Path” poem. I did not realize until now that you had another blog, but I should be quite happy to follow it also.

    • P.S.S.S I know its a long clip, but the transition between the two songs is, both musically and theatrically, masterful in my foolish opinion. Perhaps Vertinsky saw Vera wearing a ‘Lemon’ colored dress in the day, but then tat midnight…. 😉

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