Table of Contents



Jory Mickelson


Leaving Russia, leaving Russia
            goodbye snow & seasons & the appalling revolutions
of the earth.  I will not have an idle

style. Let me be modern for you.
            What did I carry with me when I went:
green trousers, white cravat, the reams

of paper rustling their convictions—black
            marks for every mile. You may separate
me from my city, the landscape, my mind—

its thoughts, amber strand of beads about my
            neck. I am lying to you
when I generalize my life. I will not look

back in sadness. Lately, I am finding
            a better shape for my sorrow. In this
other place of cafes & wrought iron, where

each stone kisses itself in praise, I will
            become famous for being famously
myself. My drafts, my dress, a daring

for this age and a record
            of my faults. Low is the price
to live as I would, even if

the grey bird sings low
            in the branches. Even if
we placed a copper collar

around the neck of the stag.
            The horses' hooves rung
dumbly this morning to themselves

across the cobbles. Who was I
            before this taste of manna
on my tongue?





This poem found its genesis in a 1906 portrait of Sinaida Gippous by painter Léon Bakst. Gippous, in the painting, looks quite like the male dandies of her era, including (the then late) Oscar Wilde. She is a remarkably complex and difficult figure to pin down. Gippous seems to occupy several spheres all at once. This poem is an attempt to give voice to that complexity, including her adult life, lived mostly in exile from Russia.