Elegy for Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbatchev discussing the preparation of the Soviet Congress, 6 March 1986.

That muggy summer night when your tears came hot and it was clear that the future was not how you imagined, when you woke from a dream of fluttering hands and frozen potatoes, steel mills and coal mines in revolt, jailbreaks and overflowing sewers, we were sleeping rough, dreaming of a canal the length of a continent, with stations for foxes, bears, and ravens.

You asked for a cold glass of water and to be left alone, to page through photo albums of you at the dais, your fist at different angles, to contemplate a mixture of choler and phlegm that gives way to melancholy and clay men puffed full of fears.

You left us an archetype beyond president or pope, and closer to queen.

Our shared and changeable moods dwell in fictions of self, reversed from information once stored on floppy disks, which have become dust in basements of inconsistency, the detritus of the unknown, or memories of the future.