First Draft: History Lessons

History Lessons
The myth of the good tsar misled by his advisors persisted for centuries, but was finally shattered in 1905 when workers carrying a petition to the Winter Palace were slaughtered by palace guards.

I forget who told me once
all of Russian history has just two lessons:
Life is a choice of guns or butter,
and the Cossacks work for the tsar.
Simple lessons, but not easily applied.

We can’t much blame the weightless corpses of the famine years,
the trampled peasants at the Winter Palace,
the tattooed flesh thawing with the tundra in Kolyma,
but is it our fault alone that we don’t know want from need,
nor know when we act the Cossack,
and when the unheeded dead?

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