—On February 14, 1854, Fyodor Dostoevsky was released from a Siberian prison camp and narrowly escaped execution for “anti-government” activities.
I left prison in the wreck of winter, the little strip of sky
dressed in dusk. On the carriage in a wretched Siberian village,
the driver told me to find god, pointed to the bodies thrown
onto the steppe like refuse. Or if, I mean when, the police
summon you again, you won’t be saved. It is not that I do not
believe in god, or desire confinement. The opposite of faithful
is dead. In some other black fortress, another man will die
and not because he didn’t believe in god. No one will die
from this. I want to lie down where taverns cling to the roadside
like fingertips. I would like to tell you how I lived. I was once naive
enough to be free. I once had eyes silvered and new,
now I dream of nothing but tendons and tyranny and skinless skin.
In the barracks there were no mirrors, no way to tell how hideous
we were, but there was a prisoner beside me no older than a boy,
his hands soft as rain, reading a sacred book. A doctor once came
to examine us, then left without telling us what we were. That’s two,
that’s hundreds that I left behind. I can pretend my life was full
of hunting game-birds and getting drunk while girls told fortunes.
I can pretend I uttered my name like it was meant to be heard.