The Sweater of Vladimir Ussachevsky

By John Haines 1924–2011 John Haines
Facing the wind of the avenues
one spring evening in New York,
I wore under my thin jacket
a sweater given me by the wife
of a genial Manchurian.

The warmth in that sweater changed
the indifferent city block by block.
The buildings were mountains
that fled as I approached them.

The traffic became sheep and cattle
milling in muddy pastures.
I could feel around me the large
movements of men and horses.

It was spring in Siberia or Mongolia,
wherever I happened to be.
Rough but honest voices called to me
out of that solitude:
they told me we are all tired
of this coiling weight,
the oppression of a long winter;
that it was time to renew our life,
burn the expired contracts,
elect new governments.

The old Imperial sun has set,
and I must write a poem to the Emperor.
I shall speak it like the man
I should be, an inhabitant of the frontier,
clad in sweat-darkened wool,
my face stained by wind and smoke.

Surely the Emperor and his court
will want to know what a fine
and generous revolution begins tomorrow
in one of his remote provinces...

                                                    (1967)

"The Sweater of Vladimir Ussachevsky". Copyright © 1993 by John Haines. Reprinted from The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Source: The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer: Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1993)

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Poet John Haines 1924–2011

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects History & Politics, Social Commentaries

 John  Haines

Biography

Poet and essayist John Haines was born in 1924 and studied art and painting at the National Art School, the American University, and the Hans Hoffmann School of Fine Art. In 1947, Haines bought a 160-acre homestead claim 80 miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, intending to pursue painting. According to Haines, when his paints froze, he turned to writing. His collections of poetry include Winter News (1966); The Stone Harp (1971); . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT History & Politics, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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