Poem: Gogol on the Loose

They opened his coffin and found
what remained of him, supine,
claw marks on the lid’s underside,
and remembered he’d been cataleptic.
Don’t think of him waking, whispering,
of his eyes opening, re-opening,
of his fingers tracing the satin cocoon,
of the screams the owls heard.

Think of his nose,
that magnificent hooter, so long and droopy
his lower lip reached it. Picture that ripsnorting
nose as it floats through woodwork and soars
over squadrons of angels and generals
for one last sniffing-out of Moscow,
one last, delirious strafing
of apparatchiks and jobsworths,
of bureaucrats, bullionaires, lickspittles.
Think how that irrepressible and promiscuous nose
will weep for men at the back doors of restaurants,
for the woman who buys one tomato,
for the waitress who’s dusting, leaf by leaf,
a plastic birch.

That piteous nose will
drape round the shoulders of Akaky Akakiyevich
as he squats in the lee of a monastery wall,
sucking the neck of a bottle, a new overcoat,
quilted, double-seamed, with silk-lined hood.