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(5 March 1953)

      They say [Maria Yudina’s] recording of Mozart was on the record player when the ‘leader and teacher’ was found. . .

                   -- Shostakovich, Testimony(1979)

The fast-play disk

spins, stylus

scratching spindle.

The Hetman’s defunct

though no one yet knows.

It’s three AM; when

minions arrive, fearful

to knock, there’ll be hell to pay

and savage successions.

He sprawls on

his couch in Red pseudo-garb,

short as a toadstool, webfoot

concealed by tall boots

nicotined fingers flung

outward; pockmarks for once

not erased. The disk

was made from pure panic:

hearing her broadcast, he

asked for the record -- the

session was live. Pre-dawn

saw a terrified

orchestra, quivering

conductors, marched to fulfill

his ‘wish.’ One round

quickly was pressed.

When he sent her a cash prize

she gifted it whole to the Church

“for your sins.”

Warrants to wipe her

lay blank on his desk

though millions were inked

without pity. Opaque

as Asia, did the ogre

have feelings? Was it

merely a whim of power –

of ‘could, but choose

not.’ His cause

held lives less than zero,

yet she played on:

force steely and strange

to faint applause.

Rat's Ass Review, Winter 2021

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