Friday, January 10, 2014

Remembering the great Russian-language poet Regina Derieva, 1949-2013

Epistle to Regina Derieva

In Memoriam

I’m looking at your favourite icon, Regina,
an icon painted by your husband, Alexander,
an image of ‘The Virgin Eleousa’, made for
Discalced Carmelites, that closed and solitary
order, that retreat to awareness and love
where the self dissolves into complexities
of community, devotion and scripture.
Child born with an old head on young
shoulders, travelling the hard miles
from Kazakhstan to Jerusalem, mapping
houses and families, mapping the godless
and the god-filled, baggage heavy with conversion
but carried over borders, declared at every
crossing: a slippage, a parsing, God loud
in-absentia, those ‘distance measures’,
that tinnitus you don’t want to get rid of.
The stars can be so glib in their night skies,
and yet they keep company, work the light.
In translation your words read our words,
words I am as familiar with as my ‘outdoors’,
the birds and animals and plants I see
and note down — remade to grow a familiarity,
to fly in the lines of an icon, a wry liturgy
of making the days count. You still complete
the space we listen for, that telegraphic
whispering across vastness, so much part
of exile, that much-leavened ‘annihilation
of distance’. I can only say ‘God’ in colours:
the vivid reds, illuminating yellows, defining
blues taking comfort in wrapping the world
as we might know it. But it’s the hands that wrap
around a grave, the hollow we fill with lives;
all our flesh, all our people. My wife was once
a Carmelite postulant across the hottest months,
when fire spread within the walls, rare
bush conserved, or a garden spade was thrust
through a boot, a doctor called from the outside,
laughter at the painful absurdity. You’d
get the irony, the grimness, the art —
beyond a photograph, deep in the icon
where your words came from.

John Kinsella

1 comment:

William Doreski said...

A wonderful poem for a wonderful poet.