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This article is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

Two Poems Sarah White
Tenses of a Simple Heart

I am a French major; she, a housekeeper.
I am eighteen; her age, uncertain.
Flaubert hides her hair

under a muslin bonnet
drawn with a greyish
Norman palette.

In Chapter One she is placed
by the Master in a simple
and imperfect past –

untold years
when she ate her bread alone,
banked the fires

and nodded off
clutching her rosary,
while I assured myself

I could never be
like Felicity
or so I thought

until I started Chapter Two
and the Master threw
me back to what preceded,

something she HAD had.
Elle avait eu, comme une autre,
son histoire d’amour


like ANY other,
any woman, any time
she discovers

bliss and ruin:
hers in the pluperfect;
mine in what was then the future.



Andrei Zhdanov, Director of the Writers’ Union, Reports to Premier Stalin on Anna Akhmatova

She is utterly remote from the People.
She speaks as a unique individual.
Unlike other writers in the capital,
she sings of death, mysticism, doom –

remote from the interests of the People.
Deaf to what is written in her time,
she repeats herself: songs of death,
mysticism, doom

become a blight upon our time
and will corrupt the minds of youth,
...


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