Tiflis. July 1931.
So Mandelstam would grow oranges
in a glacier. I can hear
his cough beyond the drifting snow.
 
Candles, three,
in a row guttering like spam.
You heard his coughing
beyond
the sudden rattling of the petrol cans.
 
Bad teeth are a kind of sermon…
 
The prisoner-trains coughing
across the Turkish hills.
 
An Egyptian postage stamp
on his forehead, he shoots
at flying red squirrels, laughs
and misses again…
some nasty tobacco and gin
from the old woman polishing spoons.
 
Osip asleep in an electric arc
like the open boat
with a black canister of Saltines
and currant jelly.
 
What does the one have to do
with the other— a marginal cash
note to the widow
details nothing.
 
Nothing and its red mustache. Coughing?
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