On assignment from Time
in the breakaway republic,
the words alone couldn’t be poorer.
The day, circumstance, all
there ever was. From above, it’s
the humming overstory
of yews, its ceiling of leaves
which, in being bunched so
closely together, make for a Cossack’s
furry hat. The answer falls short
of gunmanship, the grass, the
panorama of sagging husks
of buildings. The deeply coherent grit.
The way things change
is just so terrible, the answer
cannot bear the burden
of its questioning.
“Elbaum in Grozny, 1994” is for Cynthia Elbaum (1966–1994), a world-renowned photojournalist who lost her life during a Russian bombing raid in the first war for Chechnya. She was a very dear friend of my parents.