All those decades, Alexandra Tolstoy
saw her brother's coffin on the bed -
ten years old - and heard her mother wailing,
'God, why couldn't she have died instead?'

Eighty years, and in another country -
honoured, famed - the sentence clung like glue.
Men say 'sticks and stones may break my bones but
words will never hurt me'. It's not true.


The sad decay of a mind is visible clearly
on this page, spelled out in detail for her admirers.
Compare it with her peak; it's a cruel contrast.
The repetitions. The cliches. The tiny errors
which no one bothered with. Why do they compel
elderly celebrated authors to wrap up
a book a year, and promote it, too, as if it were some masterpiece?
It's dire. Thank God I'm not a popular novelist
and am not called upon to do this. Instead I contemplate
a horrid vision, a mind losing its grip.



Years later, they showed her
the video. She was
in a little pink frock, her chubby
fist punching the air. But her face was
hidden by a blob, though it was unlikely
that anyone seeking revenge could have identified
her; she was too young. And she heard his voice saying,
'These men you are seeing for the first time
today, are your uncles, brave and unselfish
soldiers. I don't want, but I have to
leave you and your mother. When you
watch this, and are grown up, you will understand'.