December 2006 - THE POTOMAC
Little Baba of History
Eric W. Schramm
Illya Borisovich Zbarsky is dead.
Now, who will clock in at the mausoleum,
that ponderous block among onion domes?
Its chamber echoes with the clip-clop
of cheap Italian loafers,
and the chirp of white sneakers.
Whispering is still forbidden.
Who will raise the corpse
with cradled arms and wipe away
the blooms of spores
like the youngest son cleaning
his father's bed sores? Or gently lift
the stark, bald head without dropping it,
fearful of the sound it would make—
the hollow knock of a ripe melon?
Will the new custodian steal
a needed button from the cuffs
hidden from view? Or pry from his mouth
a gold crown?
He must love the body,
as he feared the man.
Yes, who will fastidiously care
for the embalmed dictator with Zbarsky gone?
For eighteen years, he bathed him,
replaced decaying ears and lips
with molded wax, tailored down his suits
to fit the pruning body. He often farted
in the great man's presence.
Little baba of history, little janitor
of man's ambitions—your reward
after bathing the crumbling corpse,
Zbarsky often passed on the bitter musk
of herring and onions to the clay skin,
making it smell like any pensioner
walking the streets, out of the service,
and collecting cans.