The View Of The Town Gori, August,1998

I bid goodbye to the tourists,
Backpackers in T-shirts trailing to their knees,
Sipping soda from cans, they pass by
Posing for pictures against props of the past.

I tell them: If you’re looking for a mountain in a lump
That grew on a pharaoh’s breast,
You won’t find it here.

I point to the fortress, Gori’s most visible claim to antiquity,
Round and wrinkled, a stone giant kept from bleeding
By the transparent hand of kindness -
The constant wind of birds and leaves.

Then I translate for them a poem
Written by a child
Destined for many pennames – Soselo, Koba, Stalin –
A poem filled with rosebuds.
But they knew another,
A black flower, a star - red and black
Burning his forehead and the greatcoat.

I long to extinguish those fires with my thumb,
As I once longed to blot out the headlights of cars
That would shine through my window from the mountain.
Many men and women climbed that hill
Offering God white lambs in sacrifice.

But I knew:
The fairytale Dev lived up that mountain,
And that was the only reason for believing
The fruit of the flesh a better sacrifice
Than the fruit of the earth.

by Lela Samniashvili

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