n i h i l i s m
S T E P H A N I E D I C K I N S O N
Coronation, Romania, 1914
The anachronism Marie, wears a gown that must weigh seventy pounds --
damask with herringbone stays, green seed pearls. She shimmers int eh
great distance that hasn't heard that monarchy is dead. Courtiers stand
stiff, unloved, museum pieces. How different it smells. horse dung,
sweat. Ferdinand raises his chin, I, your King, give you land.
His black handlebar mustache antique as a unicycle. His velvet cape, a
blood gash of tapestry. There are pillows to kneel on. Marie and
Ferdinand ease their knees as priets set crowns on their heads. Queen and
King of Transylvania, of the Moldavian Land, Hungro-Wallachia, of the
centuries old brown coal, of the new toothbrush factories. Nero fiddled
more fervidly as the black flames licked his face.
Arrest, Berlin 1936
The raw kid, the stormtrooper with dirty blond hair and right hand
jnuckled up to the crotch of his machine gun, keeps troubling your sleep.
He follows with the thud of his new jackboots heavy as cement benches.
Hands up. Against the wet wall. Kiss the brick-sissy. Yes, you with
the rice powdered skin, black arrows for eyebrows, lick of red for lips.
There has been snow. An overcoat opens - a wilting of soft voile. The
Sentence, Ukraine, 1939
The index card is affixed to the right breast. A straight pin picks the
skin above the nipple and identifies this as Exhibit 413. The 4 seems
well formed without loop or swirl. The 1 is a lash, the 3 had to be
overdrawn, enlarged. A man with high cheekbones and gray eyes. The
bullet hole in the forehead looks like the place a cigarette was stubbed
- a smash of ash, not emptying of weather, nakedness, the sound of rain.
Conscription, Hungry, 1941
Leaving for the Front, the soldiers in the railroad car lean from the
windows clean-shaven, unsmiling. No-one glances into the camera. The
future they're going to die for. Boy, I can almost touch, how you grip
the slender strap of your canvas field bag.
Election, 1950, Latvia
The photo of Stalin is small on wall behind the couple, bent crusty
Latvians. I can see the salt they threw over their shoulders, smell the
vinegar on them. On the table a potted geranium. The old man plucks a
leaf, nudges it onto the padlocked ballot box.
Civl Disobedience, Hungry 1956
See the body - a beige trench coat, lumpish bundle curled up, knees to
chest, hands clawed in. Read the placard pinned on his lapel "Nem hiada'
lreltax meg!" They did not die in vain. Look for the head. Over
there on a cobblestone wall.