Books: The Dreaming Swimmer — Drama in the Soviet Union |
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Drama in the Soviet Union

When Kaganovich, brother-in-law of Stalin,
Left the performance barely halfway through,
Meyerhold must have known that he was doomed,
Yet ran behind the car until he fell.
In Pravda he’d been several times condemned
For Stubborn Formalism. The ill will
Of the All Highest himself was common knowledge,
Proved by a mud slide of denunciations
And rubbed in by the fact that the Great Teacher
Had never personally entered the theatre
Which this enemy of the people had polluted
With attitudes hostile to the State.

Thus Meyerhold was a dead man of long standing:
Behind the big black car it was a corpse
That ran, a skull that gasped for air,
Bare bone that flailed and then collapsed.
His dear friend Shostakovich later said
How glad he was that he had never seen
Poor Meyerhold like that. Which was perhaps
Precisely why this giant of his art
Did such a thing: to dramatize the fear
Which had already eaten him alive
And make it live.

Stalin, meanwhile,
Who didn’t need to see how it was done
To know that the director’s trick of staging
A scene so it could never be forgotten
Had to be stamped on, was the acknowledged master
Of the one theatrical effect that mattered —
He knew how to make people disappear.

So Meyerhold, having limped home, plummeted
Straight through the trapdoor to oblivion.
Nobody even registered surprise.
Specific memories were not permitted.
People looked vague, as if they didn’t have them.
In due course his widow, too, was murdered —
Stabbed in the eyes, allegedly by thieves.