Saturday, February 22, 2014


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 bent, 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.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A younger Pogudin, filmed by Galina Gamzeleva

As a young man, Oleg Pogudin must have been building, in his soul, in an apartment in Leningrad/St. Petersburg, a nest for a sacred white stork, who has continued to bless his body with such a voice--and a presence one would never want to capture or cage, but rather--to merely be grateful for the chance to observe while in flight--

Pogudin admits to knowing around 900 songs by heart; many of these are "romances."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rachmaninov in memory of Tchaikovsky

Rachmaninov Trio élégiaque in D minor Op.9

(posted in several parts on YouTube)

Leonid Kogan, violin
Fiodor Luzanov, cello
Evgeny Svetlanov, piano

Recorded live on May 19, 1973

Paintings: Alexei Savrasov (1830-1897)

Pogudin in lieu of dark chocolate, and a red fez

Waltz, Tango, Romance: a concert given by Oleg Pogudin on September 30, 2011 in the Svetlanov Hall of Moscow's International House of Music. In this video, Pogudin performs a grouping of Russian romances, including one written by Alexander Vertinsky, and some songs in Yiddish, French and German as well.

Shhhhhhhhhhh.....let these silken whispers glide past your ears; may it not be widely known that I am actually a clandestine addict--his balmy terra-cotta voice is too decadent a luxury, a cacao nib beyond my means--a hazelnut encased in dark ganache, berry infused bon-bon, salted caramel, Amaretto bittersweet....

Oleg Pogudin is Vertinsky reincarnate without Pierrot--his persona finds no need to hide behind a mask. When, impossibly, improbably, Pogudin raises his swan-hands, gesticulating, in this version of Vertinsky's "Above a rosy sea" (8 minutes into the concert)-- the spirit of the Silver Age spills over onto the swooning spectators.


A note of gratitude to Red Fez, a literary party I don't have to crash, because I've been invited. Red Fez has just released its 64th issue. To quote the infamous Doc Sigerson on the subject: "If you think you may be the next Orwell or the next Montaigne, put pen to paper and step up into the big leagues of essay writing. The intrepid editors at Red Fez are hungry for submissions of finely crafted nonfiction."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Emile Loteanu was the screenwriter as well as the director of the film mentioned in my last post, Gypsies Camp Near Heaven. 

There is a scene in the film that bemuses me. I'd like to think Loteanu was poking a bit of fun at himself, as well as at other would-be artistes. In this scene, the swashbuckling Loiku Zobar, greatest horse thief in the world, has just stolen a perfect white mare for his proud lady-love, when he arrives with his friends on the scene of the abandoned Gypsy camp--he doesn't realize that the caravans are gone because soldiers chased them off, or that his father will betray him for the sake of the rest of the tribe--

While Zobar is staring at the smoking camp-fires, a strange-looking cavalcade begins bumbling, howling and mewling down the road. Superficially, it resembles a Gypsy caravan--an oddly assembled wagon, a group of "normal" men singing, enjoying themselves, banging a drum and, in general, causing a chaotic ruckus.

One of Zobar's friends asks, confused, "Who are they? Are they crazy?"

Zobar replies, "No, brother, they are--artistes."

The character of Zobar, played by Grigore Grigoriu, is the consciousness (and conscience) of the film--in my opinion, he embodies the director's vision--that the genuine artists are those who are most "real"--the Gypsies--whose lives are lived on the edge of a knife, and whose perennial future is The Road. The rest are pale impersonations.

But Zobar is willing to acknowledge those who attempt to imitate his craft.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Alyona Buzylyova

In 1975, Alyona Buzylyova became famous as a 10-year-old in Emile Loteanu's film, Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven or Queen of the Gypsies (Табор Уходит в Небо), a favorite film of mine, which can be viewed online here (I believe there are English subtitles) or here--this may be a better link, depending upon your connection.. The script of the film is based on a story by Maxim Gorky; the plot and characters seem to hover somewhere inside a timeless Dionysian mystery play. Alyona was one of the actual, ethnic Gypsies participating (not all were). This movie must be experienced to be understood; it's not easily described.

Here is a link to a video--perhaps the most memorable of her vibrant appearances in the film, singing Nane Tsokha:

Alyona was a spunky foil for the fabulously lovely Moldovan actress Svetlana Toma in this video of Loli Phobay (The Red Apple), a link of which I'm providing below:

Loli Phobay.

It is difficult to locate videos of Alyona's later performances, but I tried...Here she is, singing with her sister Natasha in the 1980's:

At a festival in 1990:

Alyona was still going strong in 1999 at another festival:

Who knows what she is up to now......but thank you, Alyona, for being yourself.

And for all of the fans of the great film, Tabor Ukhodit V Nebo -- Ech, Romally!!!

Monday, February 17, 2014


Dear M.,

In answer to your tree, your red scarf, winter, the horizon: I pause slowly, I tremble, as if hovering before a painting with a pulse.

In such a wide space has the oak of my solitude stretched its limbs, the horizon has become a matter of climbing or descending, and depends upon the angle of the shadows. The longer the silences, the more often an unseen conductor in my spine has lifted his baton, after which strings were plucked, wind instruments resonated, cymbals clashed, and melodies appeared, lyrics rising, ready for my pen.

But today I have somehow become as a small wave dashed upon the rocks, again and yet, coincidentally, again, upon the words of your letter.

If you only knew--your delight should mostly dwell within yourself, for you knew not who you were until you recognized some reflection in my words, of your own soul.

A particular, an uncommon star, rising in the Eastern sky above the dusty vineyard tonight, bears your name.


Sunday, February 16, 2014


Dear R.,

Nothing belongs to us, but we belong to everything.

In my house lives a tree. It is the mother of my mother and of her mother before. I slipped it a sip of water. It spoke to me of your words, of two-faced Janus, master of gates.

Are your eyes fixed on the horizon? I flinch; daring to admit I cannot bear the sun's sideways winter glare.

Has an anthem blossomed in my blood, or is it an echo of an irrepressible lament: that, having once tasted the fountain of your verse, the damage is irreparable?

A body is a red scarf recently washed, draped on the balcony--but the soul, a rogue wind, seizes the body in its teeth, thrashes it about. Between the two of them, someone dreamed of us together.

Green. The one in my wild mother's branches is granting droplets of green, returning me to my raw and tender mind. If there is left any holy space on this wounded earth to grant you refuge, let it be so.


the song of a shell sapphire melting inside jade a color unnamed Ofra Haza's version of this song defies categoriz...

popular on this site