Saturday, March 17, 2007

(The Window Tangled)

This is an untitled poem by the poet Galaktion Tabidze (1891-1951). Galaktion was widely considered during his time (and after) to be one of the greatest poets in Georgia — and for good reason. The breadth and depth of his body of work is impressive — he wrote about a variety of subjects, in a variety of forms, and blended an easy accessibility with a complex symbolism, allowing for multiple levels of interpretion in even his most accessible poems. In this way he is not unlike the American poet Robert Frost.

According to the scholar Irakli Kenchoshvili (irakli kenWoSvili) this poem was first published, undated, in 1940. It was republished in 1957, backdated to 1915 — before the Communist Revolution — thus making the darker subject matter “appropriate” for the Communist censors. According to Professor Kenchoshvili’s speculations, the poem was written after Tabidze’s wife was arrested and shot, during the terrors of the “Great Purge.”

During this time, obviously, Tabidze couldn’t write directly about his loss. However, the obscured imagery and deft blurring of focus on background imagery (curtains, a candle), combined with the chaotic imagery of storm, thunder, and avalanche serve to create a sense of powerlessness, an inability to even see rightly in the face of uncontrollably destructive forces. It is this powerlessness that ironically gives the poem its force, and it is the hammering last line — the inconceivable loss, repeated over and over that makes the poem so moving.

* *
*

The window tangled
night and curtain,
a candle flickered
there, uncertain,
when your image
in the night,
left home
and did not return.

Your graceful, ardent,
bitter tears;
the glowing genius
of your stares—
so glorious and dismal;
Your tempest of ideas,
left home
and did not return.

Your brilliant eyes
which, when heightening,
expelled the darkness
with such brightening
it was like a
flash of lightning—
left home
and did not return.

And when the light
went out, I felt it:
an avalanche
of mourning melted
my life was wrenched
from where I held it —
it left home
and did not return.

First published in Georgia Today

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