click to read in Russian
In the house of Lies you throw the dice.
In the house of the Dead you dwell in dust,
for a time, times and half a time.
In the house of Hell the steam rotates
and curls at the edge, breathing fire.
The blind man stumbles against the slime of earth.
In the earth's solid cage a man digs a hole to escape
the cemented fear.
The door opens and closes.
And the living creatures rushed out and returned.
In the rock cave the walls sweat
glistening with the past.
I alone have the key to this savage parade.
November 29, 1934
You've asked what number was I?
Mother, look at this guy: AZ #145,
used to pick up the dead,
nothing hurts him - dead inside.
He breaks the rules - clubs officer N. to death,
bruised and bleeding, kept in a dungeon, starved,
hallucinations, ninety-nine years twice - huh?
What he opens no one can shut, and what he
shuts no one can open.
"Have gun - will travel,"
call him Kelly - "Machine Gun".
Killed a man, then another,
then another, six
Shot in the face with a gas gun.
AZ # 1235 vanished
from the furniture shop into the swift currents and thick fog.
Must be remembered - did time.
Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?
With thighs of a jungle cat, found clinging to a seawall, insane,
the fallen prisoner of rain…
I, AZ # 149 - stabbed in the shower, cold tiles
washed in red bubbles, bitten
by a wind scorpion,
The third winter has come.
Sunset of maroon and orange
and the bridge, luminous in gold
bleached in salt
June 9, 1937
Mother, thought you'd like to know,
good conduct here is the law.
Walk - do not run!
Live and hold the Rock - la Isla de los Alcatraces.
Count bells, wake up,
step in, step out!
A face towel, two pairs of socks,
one pair of shorts, a handkerchief.
No fresh stem flowers!
A pale silver, hair-thin streak of
light crosses the hallway.
Second bell. Marching down,
all at once, fierce
You better be sick or dead!
No dirt. No sand.
Don't block the EXIT!
Guitars and lutes and mandolins,
chess, checkers, hearts, cribbage, dominoes
cease with a bell.
The Lord said to Satan: very well, then,
everything he has is in your hands,
but on the man himself do not lay a finger.
Twelve books at one time, two outgoing letters weekly,
four Christmas cards, and Mother,
talk to me, Mother!
the sunlight catches on a spider's lace,
a teardrop runs, each shade of
I'm hiding a spoon.
Spotlights search the growing darkness.
The waves return in shimmers.
How slowly the moon rises,
I can see the cavities of rock and sea
through the miniscule cold window,
the summit of a drowned mountain,
an array of sea birds, the weathered bricks,
miles of chain-link.
Would I give up an eye to see?
High tides of grey and silver,
awash in pale fog,
without warning, a shark's
white tail rips at
the edge of indigo
Three o'clock in the morning
O, Mother, let's go down,
let's go down,
where silence Is
…where the worm dieth not,
and the fire is not quenched"
Pass through the visitor's door,
"Broadway", library, armory hall.
Leave your tears and enter.
Here: it howls.
The sea swells against a shoreline.
Rising waves, like concrete walls,
"Go ahead, swim!"
Double doors, closed shut.
Cold, damp, whistling wind.
A brown bag of fruit
dropped by mercy.
One shelf: served through a chuckhole.
O, I could use a drink!
In a shadowless room myriad voices haunt..
Awake, I lay staring at the night.
O Mother, do you still wear a white lace collar?
I heard you brought me candle sticks,
dear Mother, one for you,
one for me: light.
I'm going in and out to greet the sea.
Time ahead of its own shadow
cuts through the glass door.
Look at it and it will disappear.
Then Aurora Ludovica Gabriel comes, oh-ho-ho, tickling my toes.
It's getting darker and darker, the sky merges with the sea.
Dear mother, I'm scared of my dreams.
I can see her silhouette,
I can hear the sea
through the glass door
open and close.
I could plaster my eyes and still see
the flaming light smolder red and amber.
Can I wear that rouge?
Christmas is coming!
O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
Let us sing,
let us sing!!
Remember, mother, you took me to hear the organ in the Dome,
Candor est lucis aetarnae, speculum sine macula, et imago
bonitatis illius She is the reflection of an eternal light,
the spotless mirror, the image of his goodness.
Aurora Ludovica Gabriel, Luminare,
Elisa, Yuliya, Uiyana…
I knew it was her, I went swimming again,
sawed through the window in D-Block.
Lightnings lighted up the world…
Ingis fatuus, the stream of fire, flowing…
a left-handed angel rushed in to save me,
a piercing cold.
Deus Absconditius… Speculum mentis… Lacrimosa dies illa…
…and spirit, and darkness, and silence on every side.
How come half the living are dead and the rest of us dying?
Through walls thicker than the sky
I can see you, Mother, gathering dry flowers.
Make the flowers green again…
Barefoot, free, we'll go into the field.
And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.
Alcatraz has been published in California State Poetry Society:
PL&LR, Red Wheelbarrow Lit.Magazine, Ginosko in 2006.
A full-lenght multimedia play, based on Alcatraz poem,
written by A.Kirchner, produced and directed by Andre Dion
had its Manhattan premier 14St.Theatre in April 2007.
click to enlage (in new window)
Collage, multi-media by Elena Fattakova, ©2007.
Click on image to view the contents.
La Isla de los Alcatraces,
Alcatraz, a federal penitentiary (1934-63)
“And the living creatures rushed out and returned.”
(Kabbalah, the Book of Creation)
“for a time, times and half a time”
“What he opens no one can close,
and what he shuts no one can open.”
“I alone have the key to this savage parade.”
(Lat.) “You should have the body”, a law term
”Is not this man a burning stick snatched from
“where their worm dieth not, and the fire is
“The Lord said to Satan: very well, then,
everything he has is in your hands, but on the
man do not lay a finger.”
“O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!”
“Candor est lucis aetarnae, speculum sine macula et
imago bonitatis illius.”
(Lat.) “She is the reflection of an eternal Light,
the spotless mirror, the image of his goodness.”
(the Book of Wisdom 7: 26)
“Your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.”
(Lat.) the foolish fire
“A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him;
thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand
times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set,
and the books were opened.”
“And spirit, and darkness, and silence on every side.”
Lacrimosa dies illa
(Lat.) requiem, Dies irae
(Lat.) stillness, nothing to be-known
(Lat.) mirror of the mind
“Make me the flowers green again that are withered.”
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end
of the age.”