PORTRAIT OF SINAIDA GIPPOUS
Leaving Russia, leaving Russia
style. Let me be modern for you.
of paper rustling their convictions—black
its thoughts, amber strand of beads about my
back in sadness. Lately, I am finding
each stone kisses itself in praise, I will
for this age and a record
the grey bird sings low
around the neck of the stag.
across the cobbles. Who was I
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.