Constellation of Dead Brothers

Victor Serge--Belgium

 

      

Victor Serge
(1890-1947)

 

Serge was born in Belgium 1890 as Victor Lvovich Kibalchich.  His parents were Russian intellectuals who fled Russia following the assassination of Czar Nicholas the II.  He changed his name to Serge in 1917.  Serge was the editor of the French newspaper Anarchie and was arrested for terrorism in 1912, though innocent of any crime, he nonetheless served five years in prison.  He returned to Russia, and became very critical of Stalin, and was again arrested for sending his literary works abroad. He was expelled from Russia in 1936, went to Paris, but left when the Nazis occupied France.  He moved to Mexico where he lived until his death in 1947.


Constellation of Dead Brothers

André who was killed in Riga,
Dario who was killed in Spain,
Boris whose wounds I dressed,
Boris whose eyes I closed.

David my bunk mate,
dead without knowing why
in a quiet orchard in France—
David, your astonished suffering
-six bullets for a 20-year-old heart...

Karl, whose nails I recognized
when you had already turned to earth,
you, with your high brow and lofty thoughts,
what was death doing with you!
Dark, tough human vine.

The North, the waves, the ocean
capsize the boat, the Four, now pallid,
drink deeply of anguish,
farewell to Paris, farewell to you all,
farewell to life, God damn it!

Vassili, throughout our sleepless midnights
you had the soul of a combatant
from Shanghai,
and the wind effaces your tomb
in the cornfields of Armavir.

Hong Kong lights up, hour of tall buildings,
the palm resembles the scimitar,
the square resembles the cemetery,
the evening is sweltering and you are dying,
Nguyên, in your prison bed.

And you my decapitated brothers,
the lost ones, the unforgiven,
the massacred, René, Raymond,
guilty but not denied.

O rain of stars in the darkness,
constellation of dead brothers!

I owe you my blackest silence,
my resolve, my indulgence
for all these empty-seeming days,
and whatever is left me of pride
for a blaze in the desert.

But let there be silence
on these lofty figureheads!
The ardent voyage continues,
the course is set on hope.

When will it be your turn, when mine?

The course is set on hope.