As a young man the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky
chose to work in the morgue of Kresty prison
cutting and sewing bodies.
We don’t know how long for or what that really means
(the cutting and sewing) although we wonder.
It is the cutting and the sewing.
The cutting, fair enough, or the sewing
(if already cut and in need of stitching),
but cutting and then sewing suggests
he was required first to cut,
to remove something perhaps,
and then to sew up.
A tidy business.
Kresty is still in St. Petersburg.
It was named after its architecture
translating from the Russian
as crosses (there are two).
Originally a wine warehouse
in Vinny Gorodok (Wine Town)
the prison allows for the observation
of all its corridors from a single point.
The design also has a religious significance,
supposedly, by its own example, encouraging
penance among its thousands of sorry inmates.
It was the first Russian correctional facility
to use electric light and central heating
and was considered at the time to be
the world’s most advanced factory
designed for human incarceration.
Kerensky (later 2nd Minister-Chairman
of the Provisional Government)
stayed at Kresty on an involuntary basis.
Trotsky did also before he became more widely considered,
but this was long before Brodsky, who stitched voluntarily
without knowing a quote of his would one day be inscribed
on a monument called To the victims of Political repressions
which sits on an embankment just across the Neva River
from the prison and his work there tailoring carcasses.
In 1940, the year Brodsky was born,
Kerensky, long in exile by then,
married at Martins Creek, Pennsylvania.
He eventually settled in New York City
and taught graduate courses
before dying off in 1970.
Although Joseph Brodsky would one day
be the country’s Poet Laureate
he didn’t arrive in America until 1972
and as far as we can tell never met
Alexander Kerensky although in some small way,
as we can see, they spent time together.
In the summer of 2006
a Mister Putin, another functionary,
announced that the prison was to be moved
to the outskirts (the Kolpinsky District)
and that the Kresty building would then be sold at auction.
It is to be a hotel-entertainment complex.
As a protected architectural landmark
only a very limited redesign will be possible
but there will be no dead bodies in need of tidying
for that work has already been done.
The ghosts, and whatever they have left,
as regards memories and attendant energy,
will remain however.
Brodsky died of a heart attack.
He had had many, a double bypass along the way,
surgeries, more cutting.
There is no record of an autopsy,
although we wonder.