Out of Exile

For Vladimir Korolenko.

person holding lighted candle

You knew the blind musician, leaning in to hear birdsong and river stones, the murmur of distant water, and you brought him the shepherd’s pipe. You knew that to play it well meant knowing love and sorrow. You knew the dying peasant’s dream of heaven, bad company and the children of the underground, and how to abide for the day of atonement. Above all, you knew your unknowing, ceaselessly seeking some light within darkness, to heat against the killing cold. Leaning always toward the glow of truth, all of this danced with you, joyful and alive in your open hands.


Inspiration: Today is the birthday of Vladimir Korolenko (1818-1868), a Ukranian-born Russian writer, humanitarian, and human rights activist devoted to serving the poor and maligned. He spent a period exiled in Siberia for his criticism of tsarism and is best known for his short novel The Blind Musician (later, he was also silenced by Stalin for his critique of Bolshevik hypocrisies). I consulted available translations as well as Natalia M. Kolb-Seletski’s article, “Elements of Light in the Fiction of Korolenko” (The Slavic and East European Journal, Summer 1972). Some of the phrases above come from the titles of Korolenko’s short stories.

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I keep watch and listen, mostly in dark places.

5 thoughts on “Out of Exile”

    1. Hi Granny! Hmmm. That could work. I tend to leave things open to various interpretations, because my way of reading the world sort of feels like that. I was thinking more about exile of darkness, alienation, etc. because I know these, so on that level can choose to relate. Please know that I’m not one for hidden meanings, but I find the experience of being a human in the world so strange that it would feel dishonest of me to pretend some direct certainty about whatever is going on. Grateful for your engagement, Granny! xoxo

  1. Super cool tribute and how you incorporated some of his writings, I love that. This could be stamped on a metal plaque with a statue if one were into that kind of thing.

    1. Bill, thank you. I love celebrating the mystery embodied in the work of a figure like this. It’s one of my favorite ways to spend time with someone whose work I am just getting introduced to.

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