Escape from the Novinskaya Women’s Prison, Moscow, 1909

Let’s imagine the doors that scraped
the freshly cemented floors
as a gaggle of raindrops escaped
from a gutter, the timetabled chores

in the crypts for their needles and cradles,
the chapels equipped with restraints,
the soft vegetables tipping off ladles
into bowlfuls of boiling complaints.

Alexandra Tarasova’s views
were at odds with her boss’s decrees.
She ordered some clothes she could use
and got leave for a ringful of keys.

The event began not with the yell
of a chair-smashing, rib-kicking posse,
but the well-timed mis-strike of a church bell
by a sixteen-year-old Mayakovsky,

and ten convicts paced out to the sun
in July and new clothes of their own,
with the castings his sister and mum
had let cool and the help they’d sewn.



Alistair Noon‘s publications include The Kerosene Singing (2015, Nine Arches Press). Two further volumes of his Osip Mandelstam translations, The Voronezh Workbooks and Occasional and Joke Poems, are forthcoming from Shearsman Books in mid-2022. He lives in Berlin.