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October 19, 2013

By Robert Conquest

Historian of the Soviet republics, cold warrior, and friend of Amis and Larkin, Conquest was also both player and poet. This is from Penultimata (2009), a collection largely devoted to his late life thoughts on love. You get the feeling that after a lifetime of watching his words in the hope of not missing a chance, he’s finally writing freely.  He is 96!

The point is made in the final line, but the first line is the best.


(California mining country)

After the tremblor the strata settle
What was gold-dust in a slowing stream
Falls from that suspended gleam
Into solidities of lode-metal.

Shock, aftershock – over in days,
Consolidation of gold – eons:
But on our conceptual screens
Time knows its place.

In ten minutes a couple buy
At the store where such are sold
A ring struck from that gold
Engraved Eternity.

Robert Conquest

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