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Tell Me, What Is the Soul

There is a prison room,
the floor, cement,
in the middle of the room
a black pool full of black water.
It leads to an invisible canal.
Plunder is the pool. Plunder is the canal.

By the wall,
by a fire,
Mandelstam was reciting,
in his yellow leather coat,
the criminals were listening,
they offered him
bread and the canned stuff, which he took . . .


Door in the Mountain: New & Collected Poems