Erika, Save Me

Alexa, do you remember typewriters?
No two machines were just alike, because
the keys were never aligned perfectly.

In the Soviet Union,
if you wanted to publish your poetry,
you’d crank in four sheets of paper
with carbons in between

And hand off the copies
to others who would do the same.
The work was called samizdat,
a forbidden activity.
It means “self-published.”

The KGB (the original fact checkers)
registered every typewriter at the factory
with a sample of the quirky type it produced
and could track you down that way.
Alexa, I didn’t say “qwerty.”
Please don’t autocorrect me.

For the wrong viewpoint,
or maybe just bad poetry,
it was off to the interrogator,
maybe the gulag, who knew?
Yet samizdat outlived that dynasty.

Dr. Zhivago was published this way,
countless typists sweating without pay
so others could read about a poet
who wasn’t political.

And if that was counter-revolutionary,
what did that make the typists?
Dead if they weren’t careful—

Unless they owned an Erika,
a sweet little portable
built in East Germany, smuggled by travelers

back to a country starved for poetry.
Her type samples were not on file,
So you could samizdat to your heart’s content
and stay out of jail.

Alexa, get me an Erika.

Aug. 8, 2021
Alan Graham