By Stan Persky | December 21, 2001

Today no one cares
about the tongue of Orpheus

cut out by order of the tyrant
yesterday.     And everyday

schoolchildren visit the museum
to gaze indifferently

upon the tongue of Orpheus
in a glass case.    Allthat’slivingmemorytome

isbuttheendofhistory    for the children
bow their heads

only to the little screens    in their palms
"…class antagonisms pale

before the new division of people
   into friends and enemies
of the word."    Make your "Ode"

to the tyrant    a real poem
When there is no way to speak

of the silence between stanzas,
about the spaces between words

          Bangkok, Dec. 2001

    "…their tongues were cut out and with the
    stump that remained they were forced to
    glorify the tyrant."
        –Nadezhda Mandelstam

    "I am learning from him to be merciless
    to myself"
       –Osip Mandelstam,
              "Ode to Stalin"


  • Stan Persky

    Stan Persky taught philosophy at Capilano University in N. Vancouver, B.C. He received the 2010 B.C. Lieutenant-Governor's Award for Literary Excellence. His most recent books are Reading the 21st Century: Books of the Decade, 2000-2009 (McGill-Queen's, 2011), Post-Communist Stories: About Cities, Politics, Desires (Cormorant, 2014), and Letter from Berlin: Essays 2015-2016 (Dooney's, 2017).

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