The Poetry Kit
River of Blood
I end as a traitor to my party, a traitor who must be shot.
Sergei Mrachkovsky, 22 August, 1936
Night in Coyoacan. The darkness heavy with fear and longing.
Natalia Sedova awakens from her dreams. Gunshots
ring out in the Mexican dark… “They are shooting here,
in our room,” cries Natalia, her voice, shrill and frightened.
The Old Man moves slowly at first. He is not afraid to die
and cares little for his own safety – he fires after his attackers
with his revolver, but it is no use, Siqueiros and his men
disappear into the May dawn and a pall of silence descends.
Quietly then, he remembers the names: Zinoviev, Kamenev,
Sokolnikov, Bubnov, Bukharin, Serebrayakov, Smilga,
Berzin, Krestinsky, Antonov-Ovseyenko, Joffe, Kiselev,
Preobrazhensky and Varvara Nikolayevna Yakovleva.
Lev Davidovich knows there will be no reunion of old Bolsheviks,
the Old Guard are gone into dust, they have been forcibly removed
from the scene of history and they will speak no more in the rabid air,
they have given their last brave breaths but the end was inevitable.
Trotsky recalls his trips into the mountains to collect cactuses,
and Natasha milling the grain for baking bread and tortillas.
He pulls his grandson Sieva closer to his chest and calls out
to his wife, “Natasha, they have let us live for one more day!”
Farewell, Leon Lvovich
Together with our boy has died everything that still remained young within us.
What terrible suspicions come to us in the dark? Sedov
is no more, the Moscow executioners have struck again,
they have expunged Leon Lvovich without a shot being fired.
No more will he ride the Moscow streetcars of his youth.
No more will he clean the snow from the Moscow streets.
No more will he step out under the Parisian sky with his beloved
He has gone to join his brother, Sergei and his sisters, Zinaida
and Nina Lvovna in death, only now will he gain the peace
he was denied in life by the ghouls of the Thermidor.
For three days his mother and father mourn in the darkness
of their private room and they are changed irrevocably.
Now only the vengeance of history can console the Old Man.
Not until Stalin has been consigned to that chamber of horrors
reserved for the Neros and Caligulas will Trotsky
ever breathe easily again. His younger self is gone forever.
What dreams may still abound lie in the victory of the Fourth
International. Our only weapon is the truth... The truth will emerge…
Sedov’s words are etched into our minds until the end of time.