Mandelshtam updated.

Here’s Osip Mandelshtam’s “Stalin Epigram” which got him sent to the concentration camps, where he died (the translation omits the smear about Stalin being Ossetian rather than Georgian, which is probably no bad thing):

 

Our lives no longer feel ground under them.

At ten paces you can’t hear our words.

 

But whenever there’s a snatch of talk

it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,

 

the ten thick worms his fingers,

his words like measures of weight,

 

the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip,

the glitter of his boot-rims.

 

Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses

he toys with the tributes of half-men.

 

One whistles, another meows, a third snivels.

He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.

 

He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes,

One for the groin, one the forehead, temple, eye.

 

He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries.

He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.

 

Well, that’s nice. Can we update it with a Zuma epigram? Some of the passages wouldn’t even need to be changed, would they?

 

Our lives no longer feel ground under them.

At ten paces you can’t hear our words.

 

But whenever there’s a snatch of talk

it turns to the Nkandla sunbather,

 

the ten fat maggots his fingers,

his ideas like emptied plastic bags,

 

his gleaming leather frontal lobe,

his eyes as dull as plastic marbles.

 

Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses

he toys with the tributes of half-men.

 

One whistles, another meows, a third snivels.

He drools out their lies like poisoned syrup.

 

He forges decrees concrete as anchors,

Dropped overboard to drag all under.

 

He savours the deaths like juicy lamb knuckles.

His culture is a pyramid of unconfirmed skulls.

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