I placed the mask firmly over my face: the mask I had been fabricating & fiddling with for the previous 20 years.

& then Russia, Mandelstam, Akhmatova, Brodsky, Pushkin, "white nights" Petersburg, Elena Shvarts (ie., "shining/black") became a master theme-&-variation, through the next 1000 pp. of that poem (Forth of July, in toto). Mandelstam = "almond branch". (I found out about Celan's parallel interest later.) The almond - the tree that flowers in January. Eliot's "midwinter spring is its own season". The Biblical branch. Magdalen, amygdaloid. The embodied, the rooted Word. The other one, the ghost, the Bride, the J. The meteoric stone fallen from heaven, placed in the otfe (bedouin tribal camel-tent shrine) as tablet of the Law.

& you have to recall that the "narrative" plot proper began on Halloween, with a search for a "lost black cat" (Berryman sidekick?) named Pushkin.

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