sia? Half-intuitively, half-rationally, Ratushinskayanknows, it seems, that whatnhas existed is a succession of tacticalndecisions, made by the rulers of totalitariannRussia in their 70-year effort tondeceive and disarm the free West. Asnpart of that effort, Lenin’s New EconomicnPolicy, Stalin’s New Constitution,nKhrushchev’s New Liberalism,nand the present-day New Opennessnhave all done their job. What they havennot done is give the individual even antiny grain of genuine freedom—whichnis, and has always been, the ability tondefend himself against tyranny. Like itnor not, the totalitarian order is immutable,nand only its visible features — fromncriminal justice to poetry, from Ratushinskaya’snarrest to her release — varynto suit its propaganda needs of thenmoment.nIndeed, in Ratushinskaya’s world,nthe color of hope is grey. The prisonnwalls of that world do not divide thenfree from the unfree: they encircle it,nlike some sort of inverted paradisenwithin which they delineate concentricncircles of diminishing physical liberty.nYet intellectually a denizen of thisnparadise is as free in the first circle as innthe last. Paradoxically, Ratushinskayanwas not deprived of freedom when, stillnin her 20’s, she began- her prisonnjourney: she merely crossed from onenstate of unfreedom into the next, bothnof them essentially physical. Nor didnshe ever manage to reach the lowestncircles of the paradise; in fact, her lifenin the “Small Zone” of JH-385/3, thenBarashevo camp in Mordovia, was almostnas comfortable, in physical terms,nas it is for millions of Russians on then”outside.” The poet was confined to anspecial unit for political prisoners: unlike,nfor instance, the death of AnatolynMarchenko in December 1986, herndeath from cold, starvation, or torturenwould have been a public-relationsnsetback for the Soviets in the West.nThis is why the prisoners in Ratushinskaya’snunit had a hot plate and antelevision set. This is why Ratushinskayanhad a pencil, with which to write hernLetter.nReading all but a handful of translationsnin Pencil Letter (those by AlyonanKojevnikov), I kept thinking they werenwritten with crayons.nAndrei Navrozov is the poetry editornof Chronicles.nPoemnby Irina Ratushinskayantranslated by Andrei NavrozovnThey have learned, I suppose,nto make time preserve,nWith the extract of nightnsprinkled into each tense.nBut the twentieth’s darknAnd the rest none too earlynTo erase bygone namesnoff the prisonyard fence.nWe would load it with care.nWith the voices of friends now silent,nFor’ the sake of the fencenwith the names of children unborn.nWith such love we would rig it,nthough never to sail it:nWe are never the crewnand not even allowed on board.nWith the requisite loadnunderneath the coarse rags.nThere is time to run our handsnthrough the grain.nTo draw blood from the palmsnBut pick out the teeth of the dragonsnFrom the seed that is boundnto sprout some day.nnnFEBRUARY 1989/41n