Saturday, March 15, 2014

Stinking Lizaveta

stinking Lizaveta
standing in front of white, white Taj Mahal
stinking of marigolds and paper dry aboli

stinking Lizaveta
wandering through Amsterdam Centraal
sobbing and searching for her lost God, in blue mascara

stinking Lizaveta
sleeping outside Hotel Diana
dreaming of hot idlis and Bombay cutlet

stinking Lizaveta
singing of sunshine and seasons
amidst cold toilet tiles of an alley in NY

stinking Lizaveta
smelling her torn tar-stained clothes
that remind of the night, coal and her dead child’s eyes

stinking Lizaveta
stinking stinking stinking of this world 
and all its moist mouldy coziness.


//excerpt - chapter 'Stinking Lizaveta' from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov // 

“There was one special circumstance here which deeply shocked Gregory, having finally strengthened an unpleasant and revolting suspicion he had had for some time. Lizaveta Smerdyashchaya was an undersized girl ‘just under five feet’, as many pious old women of our town touchingly described her after her death. She was twenty and her healthy, broad, red face bore an expression of complete idiocy; she had a fixed and unpleasant look in her eyes, though it was meek enough. She walked about barefoot all her life, in winter as well as in summer, wearing only a hempen shift. Her very thick, almost black hair, curling like lamb’s wool, formed a kind of huge cap on her head. It was, besides, always matted with mud, and had leaves, splinters of wood, and shavings clinging to it, for she always slept on the ground and in the dirt. Her gather Ilya was a homeless sickly artisan, who had lost all his money and was perpetually drunk. He had been living for many years as a workman with some well-to-do tradesmen, also artisans of our town. Lizaveta’s mother had long been dead. Ilya , always ill and in a bad temper, used to beat Lizaveta unmercifully whenever she came home.

But she came home very rarely because she used to be fed by everybody in the town as a saintly fool. Ilya’s employers, Ilya himself, and many other compassionate people in the town, especially merchants and merchant’s wives, tried many times to clothe Lizaveta more decently, and towards winter always put a sheepskin and boots on her; but, although she let them put everything on her without protest, she used to so away, preferably to the cathedral porch, and take off everything she had been given – kerchief, skirt, sheepskin, or boots – and leave it and there and walk away barefoot and in her shift as before. It happened on one occasion that our new provincial governor, on his tour of inspection of our town , caught sight of Lizaveta and was deeply hurt in his tenderest feelings. Though he realised that she was a ‘saintly fool’, as indeed he was officially informed, he insisted on pointing out that for a young girl to wander about the street in nothing but her shift was a breach of the proprieties and that it must not happen again. But the governor departed, and Lizaveta was left as she was. At last her father died, and she became even dearer to all the pious people in our town as an orphan. Indeed, everyone seemed to like her and even the boys in the streets did not tease her or molest her, and the boys of our town, especially the schoolboys, are a mischievous lot. She would walk into strange houses and no one drove her out; on the contrary, everyone tried to be nice to her and give her a penny. If she were givne a penny, she would take it and at once drop it into some alms-box in a church or outside the prison. If she were given a roll or a bun in the market, she would go away and give it to the first child she came across, or else stop one of the richest ladies in our town and hand it to her; and the ladies were very pleased to accept it. She herself lived only on black bread and water. If she went into an expensive shop and sat down there, the proprietors took no notice of her, though there were costly goods and money lying about, for they knew that even if they put thousands of roubles before her and forgot all about it, she would not take a penny. [...]”

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