Discover more from PN Review
Two Poems by Rachel Mann
PN Review 192, March - April 2010
The Conclusions of Viktor Semyonovich Abakumov
In order not to spoil the Persian carpet in his office,
a dirty runner bespattered with blood was rolled out
before the unfortunate was brought in…
The worm knows itself only in its burrowing.
Observe it trapped on a pavement —
examine its squirming. Conduct your own
experiments should you require proof.
I am not, you see, an uncultured man.
I know well the beauty of things
which are completely themselves.
(A beauty the Persians have always grasped.)
Here on the banks of the Moskva
we are determined to explore
the full range of human response.
We are anxious to work for the best
of all concerned.
We have learnt from hard experience what best aids our work.
When one is helping another find their true voice
so much for them has to be left behind.
To our surprise we’ve found there can be beauty even
in their denials; in their disavowals one can sometimes
discern a pattern suggestive of higher things.
Ours, then, is a difficult task:
to show others how to be themselves.
I am merely the conductor; they are history’s choir.
The Wedding Breakfast of the Rolleiflex Girl
I always wondered what on earth they found to talk about - Traudl Junge
Everywhere nude light, shouting, the frantic clatter of boots.
Walls quivering. Endless concrete morning.
So close your eyes, lean into me, and feel again:
a mountain in Summer, sweet tea, the terrace at noon,
a yellow-billed chough flying only for us.
Recline with me again into our favourite chatter —
the jauntiness of my hat, tittle tattle Munich style,
Carruthers’ bravado in The Drum.
At such altitudes my dear Herr Wolff
you could no more resist your Rolleiflex Girl
than I you on that day you walked into Hoffmann’s
smelling of gooseberries and apples, of pastry, your eyes
saying I must have what I want.
Come to me again on this night of blessing.
Do not withhold your prim shaking hands.
Shush now, my love, the fires of Spring
rage without your care.
Rachel Mann is an Anglican parish priest and writer. She was Poet-in-Residence at Manchester Cathedral between 2009 and 2017 and is the author of seven books, including Fierce Imaginings: The Great War, Ritual, Memory and God (DLT, 2017). She is Visiting Fellow in Creative Writing and English at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her first collection of poetry, A Kingdom of Love, was published by Carcanet in 2019. Her second collection, Eleanor Among the Saints, will be released in January 2024.
Subscribe to PN Review magazine at pnreview.co.uk.