SECOND LANGUAGE TEACHER
‘Henceforth your own language, officially, is dead.
The only option is to teach ours instead,’
Headmaster from newly-flagged desk proclaimed.
Classroom walls postered with grim-faced ‘heroes’’,
the same artillerymen – who knows? –
that reduced my home to ash and flame,
daughter terrified, my husband maimed:
Thus I parse subjection for adolescents –
the falsified past, restrictive present.
Between the lines bristle Solzhenitsyn,
Brodsky, Mandelstam. To prevent their mention
and ensure literature remains ‘pure’
an inspector patrols at every door,
boots polished, ‘on Peter the Great’s service.’
Veer a jot and one risks detention
or worse. So this is what we trained for,
let alone inflicting it upon others?
Policed syntax, impoverished lexis.
Pay-packet brings crisp roubles as promised.
I’m desperate, angry and ashamed.
The town outside’s acquired a different name.
i.m. LUCA SERIANNI, 1947-2022
‘Anni seri con Serianni’:
To rattle of the 19 tram,
where Via dell’Università
and Regina Elena meet,
thanks to heart-signed anagram-
-cum-graffito the late Prof
and linguist’s there in spirit,
defied, lilac sun and moon
painted up on each side –
As he might have wished it,
‘la parole’ of the street