To claim, or: Set afire

A “Waltz” poem

Inspired by the iambic trimeter of ‘My Papa’s Waltz’ by Theodore Roethke

I've Russian relatives
who dance to Putin's hype,
minds strained through grotesque sieves
'til nothing's left but tripe.

The music they step to
flows out through State channels;
for them, his version's 'True' -
straight from Kremlin annals.

They're made to feel proud heirs
of a once great empire;
thus Kyiv should be theirs
to claim or set afire.

The despot bids them dance,
keeps masses distracted;
he has them in his trance,
charmed by lies refracted.

In fantasies, they're dressed
in simple Russian garb...
When they think of the West,
they repeat Putin's barbs.


Title: Russian Dancers;
Artist: Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917)
Date: 1899; via

For this week’s #TankaTuesday ekphrastic prompt, Selma and Colleen selected the above painting. It’s a Degas; and you can read more about it HERE. Poets are encouraged to write poems using the above image as an inspiration. 

Don’t just describe what you see in the image. Think about metaphor and allegory.

Let’s write poetry together!

When it comes to partnership, some humans can make their lives alone – it’s possible. But creatively, it’s more like painting: you can’t just use the same colours in every painting. It’s just not an option. You can’t take the same photograph every time and live with art forms with no differences.

Ben Harper (b. 1969)

Would you like to create poetry with me and have a completed poem of yours featured here at the Skeptic’s Kaddish? I am very excited to have launched the ‘Poetry Partners’ initiative and am looking forward to meeting and creating with you… Check it out!

71 thoughts on “To claim, or: Set afire”

  1. So sad a state. I feel for you. Having relatives who are unwilling to question is frustrating. I was lucky to live in a family where inquiry was not only encouraged but demanded.

  2. Fantastic poem, David! I feel sorry for those who only get fed one source of information. They live a life of lies and don’t even know it. I know some people are able to get information in to family and friends, but even when they do, those people have been so brainwashed that it’s hard for them to believe anything but what they’ve been fed. 😥

    1. … even when they do, those people have been so brainwashed that it’s hard for them to believe anything but what they’ve been fed.

      Exactly so, Yvette ~ and they take offense at how “anti-Russia” we are.

  3. Lovely writing, David. Though the issue is far from pretty. Many believe what they’re fed because it’s easier to chew and digest. No revolting indigestion.

    1. True, Terveen ~ and -also- they’ve been ingesting it for years now… it’s not only a recent war-related phenomenon…

      P.S. 🤡 I’m not used to receiving only one comment at a time from you!

  4. David, this is brilliant poetry that sheds light on Putin, the despot! My grandfather came from Dreispitz, Russia, in what is now Georgia, to the U. S. in 1906. They were Germans, brought to Russia by Catherine the Great to teach the peasants how to farm wheat. After Tsar Alexander fell to the Bolsheviks, the Russians told them to leave as they weren’t Russians (after 100 years). The Germans said they were Russians… They fled to the U.S. Russia has always had ulterior motives. Your poem captures that philosophy perfectly! ❤

    1. That kinda reminds of me of Jew from the former USSR. While they (we) were living there, we were “Jews” – that was our official nationality, as evidenced by our government-issued birth certificates and ID cards. Then – after we’d left, people from other countries called us Russians…

      1. I totally get that. My mother was rumored to be born on the boat coming over from Russia, but I don’t know that for a fact. She passed when I was three. I remember one of my earliest memories, was the old lady down the street calling me a dirty little Russian! I had to go ask my grandma what that meant. You know my grandparents always said we were German… not Russian. Yet, that wasn’t a badge of courage either. LOL! ❤

  5. Indeed, that’s all we can ever do: “write about what we know.” You’re right, there’s plenty of intelligent; open minded Russian people out there who can see the bigger picture.

    1. well, I can only write about what I myself know to be true…

      some of our relatives are clear-eyed and looking for alternative sources of information… not buying what Putin says… but others? unfortunately… they take what he feeds them – hook, line, & sinker.

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