"Don't worry your pretty head over it," I remarked as I followed them through the doorway. What I left unsaid was this: It was the poems that failed to beat about the bush, not the orgasms with this bewitching sea nymph, which risked to cut short Mandelstam's ifeline. Not to mention mine. When we'd burst through the door of the flat earlier, I'd instantly detected what my husband, too enthralled by Zinaida's petal-of-rose perfume, had missed: the stale aroma of a strong tobacco that only men smoked. And I noticed, as I was meant to, that the glass ashtray on the windowsill was filled with cigarette ends. I didn't have the heart to spoil Mandelstam's Lucullan banquet by telling him we'd had visitors. At least for the space of a few hours, he would put behind him the agony of no longer being published, the indignity of reading his poems to eleven people, the humiliation of Once, long ago, there was such a poet.
Dear God in heaven, while he still has a muse and an erection, arrange things so the sun will simply fail to rise tomorrow morning. Amen.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert Littell
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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