Verikyno Ice House from Doctor Zhivago film

Boris?  The creepy-crawly spider

or Natasha’s “no-goodnik,” homme imbecile?

No, with certainty, neither.

Born in 1890 Moscow, the Russian boy

of a painter, Leonid Pasternak, and

a musician, Rosa Kaufman—

a poet—  Boris!


Who would know

if not for the quill?

feathery light, yet, as wrote Cobbett:

Tyranny “has no enemy so formidable as the pen.”

Baudelaire wrote of those who sprout from darkened blood

in his Les Fleurs du Mal “Flowers of Evil:


Si le viol, le poison, le poignard, l’incendie,

N’ont pas encor brondé de leurs plaisants dessins

Le canevas banal de nos piteux destins,

C’est que notre âme, hélas! n’est pas assez hardie.

“If poison, fire, blade, rape do not succeed

In sewing on that dull embroidery

Of our pathetic lives their artistry,

It’s that our soul, alas, shrinks from the deed.” *


Boris?  His soul’s fire was quenched by ink.


Pasternak’s pen, indeed,

all beings of the pen,

come to die as dust—or as eternal.

Freed blood rushes through the ages, but,

it is that narrow river of black that casts the tale—

if not censored, ashes to the whole,

as Bradbury’s typewriter foretold.


Pasternak’s pen gifted us with Doctor Zhivago’s

poetically perceptive eyes, which enlightened us to the

cobweb of horrors of the Russian Revolution.

For his epic channels of ink, official Russia walled-in

its publication, just as the Vatican hierarchy has

suppressed de Chardin’s deviations from imprimatur

until and after the pen-wielding priest was firmly planted.


Nonetheless, they survived without official blessings,

Teilhard de Chardin printed by secular Italy in ’57—

The priest’s unorthodox prophecies of

noosphere and an omega point intact;

and Boris Pasternak by France in ’55—

Zhivago’s poetically hopeful heart beating safely

through subsequent reigns of lies and terror.



the blood of all beings

comes to be dust or eternal,

and that narrow river of black casts the tale.

Who would know—

if not for the

being of the pen?


by S.A. Bort

*  Translated by Norman R. Shapiro 1998.

photo:  Verikyno Ice House from Doctor Zhivago film (1965)