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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, January 29, 2016
About this Poem 

“This poem recounts a dinner that became one of the most enjoyable evenings of my life after having been unexpectedly introduced to the two remarkable Russians scholars the poem introduces. Also, it allows me to indulge my love of and to celebrate the famously untranslatable poet of the Silver Age, Alexandr Blok.”
—David St. John

Alexandr Blok

One snowy night I was smiled upon by Russian gods
          & found myself at dinner opposite

The Moscow scholars a married couple—he only
          the world’s authority on Pasternak

& she the final word on her beloved Alexandr Blok
          & as we talked the evening gathered 

Along the length of the white table & I could only keep
          drinking the conversation in so deeply

I felt myself reaching back into the dark century & at last
          I got up to leave in my black cashmere

Overcoat I’d found hanging on the back rack of a Venice
          thrift store & became just another shadow

About to slide wordlessly into the night & yes it’s true
          it was snowing just in upstate New York
        
Not Moscow or St. Petersburg nor in any ancient page 
          yet to anyone who saw me walking

I imagined myself as the most lyrical shadow alive
 

Copyright © 2016 David St. John. Used with permission of the author. 

Copyright © 2016 David St. John. Used with permission of the author. 

David St. John

David St. John

David St. John is the author of over ten collections of poetry, including Study for the World's Body: New and Selected Poems (Perennial, 1994), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

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It was there, in that little town
On top of the mountain, they walked,
Francesco and Chiara,
That's who they were, that's what
They told themselves—a joke, their joke
About two saints, failed lovers held apart
From the world of flesh, Francis and Clare,
Out walking the old city, two saints,
Sainted ones, holy,
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Trust me I’m really trying to pay attention
     but it’s harder every day

& so I begin to trust only in appearances not
     “authenticity”—that half truth—

Growing so precisely redacted it’s even less
     now than what it once seemed

So I can’t help it & maybe I’m doing

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  Vivian St. John (1881-1974)

There is a train inside this iris:

You think I'm crazy, & like to say boyish
& outrageous things. No, there is

A train inside this iris.

It's a child's finger bearded in black banners.
A single window like a child's nail,

A darkened porthole lit by the white,