Saturday, 2 April 2011
A tree and some frost
... I’ll be asked: what helped us to live
When there were neither letters nor any news - only walls,
And the cold of the cell, and the blather of official lies,
And the sickening promises made in exchange for betrayal.
And I will tell of the first beauty I saw in captivity.
A frost covered window...
I’ve just tripped across this poem of Irina Ratushinskaya again. I’ve looked back and find that I referred to it in a post on 8th August 2008. I was only thinking about it the other day. Now I’ve found it again in Being Human, the new third volume in Neil Astley’s Staying Alive series.
When we were in Amsterdam during Half Term we found long queues outside the Anne Frank House, almost next door to the church pictured here. We decided to come back half an hour before opening time the following day and, not needing to read all the background information in the first few rooms, pressed on ahead of the smaller crowd who came in when the House first opened. So we found ourselves on our own in the annexe at the top and back of the house where her family had hidden and lived, about which we’d read so often and which we almost already knew. It was a privileged few minutes.
Just one of the things about the annexe was a skylight window which had in her day framed a horse chestnut tree (which I’ve since discovered came down only recently having been ravaged by the same canker which brought low the horse chestnuts in Bradley churchyard). The House highlighted extracts from her diary in which she takes pleasure in the tree, and that is when I thought of the patterns the frost made on the window of Irina Ratushinskaya’s punishment cell. And now I’m reading her description of it again.
... a blue radiance on a tiny pane of glass,
A cast pattern - none more beautiful could be dreamt.
The more clearly you looked, the more powerfully blossomed
Those brigand forests, campfires and birds...
That upheaval of rainbow ice...