By torchlight burning bewildered with purpose
Into the cellar of the six-toed untruth:
Well, my pretty, she says,
Lifting the hairy turnip of her head:
Are you hungry, or are you dead?

She sighs like a vent in earth,
Slicing pickled mushrooms with old men’s faces,
Ladling out a gloopy tuberous stew
Of afterbirth.

A heave of hot air, heaving floor,
But the door is indivisible dirt,
Aswarm with worms.
Eat, eat . . . there’s always more.

Lice in moss, nice and quiet, really,
And the light’s motes such pretty little flies —
Sing us the old lullaby of alibis,
Sugarmonster, bugmother, me . . .

— Osip Mandelstam
(April 4, 1931)

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