[Based on a scene from Andrei Tarkovsky's film Andrei Rublev.]
Old Rus where the waters ran
as tributaries of brutal glaring
or fell as rain. Or hung as mist
turgid with a sameness of days.
Wayside markers of nailed birch
held whispers of children's graves
and of other's sunken under hymns,
forgotten prayers, grimness of ikons.
Three monks go past rotting crosses.
They are moving to keep from living.
Peasants huddle in a stable of grimaces.
Three monks shamble here in wet robes.
A prancing, singing buffoon is banging
his tambourine of sarcastic commentary.
Peasants smile as they wait for nothing.
Across this great land of Rus, tumult!
Shouts of Tatars on their fierce steeds
that steam under the arrogance of arms.
Tatars laugh, their weapons are bloody.
Days of torture have their say with being.
Boyars sneer at a jester's cracking bones.
Away in a forest are floating celebrants,
lusting with torches in a rite of spring.
Dark water that once bathed Scythians
now baptizes the wild rumors of pagans.
The gods that hide or hang in branches
are not there but give moonlight a luster.
In the stable of smells and waiting,
peasants are calm and know nothing.
A metaphysics oozes from the blood
and hard sweat of now idle scrabblers.
Their vigil for bones not yet buried
but aching in moisture is eloquent.
As rain ceases and cold thunder fades,
time screams in mouths of the mute.