Joseph Brodsky left Soviet Union in 1972 and never returned to see his beloved “city tinted color of frozen vodka”, his friends and family. Brodsky’s art, however, has made it across the oceans into the hearts of millions of people across the world. “Even though my people don’t need my body, they still need my soul…” the poet wrote before his departure, before starting the new chapter of his life away from his homeland that denounced and persecuted him. Years later, in 1987, Brodsky was awarded Nobel Prize for Literature, which he accepted as “a Jewish; a Russian poet, an English essayist – and, of course, an American citizen.” Brodsky continued to write, both in English and Russian, until the day of his death in 1996.
Leaving one’s country at a mature age, despite reasons for departure, is never easy. You learn a lot about yourself, who and what is important in your life, how you react to difficulties and challenges. You learn that nobody really needs you, you feel like a fool in supermarkets, banks and post offices, you feel sudden loss at words, unable to fully express what you really mean to say. You want to share your experiences, good and bad, with your friends and family back home. You do your best to stay in touch: skype, emails, texts, letters on beautiful stationary. “We love you, we are all proud of you, keep up the good work” they say. You answer: “Beautiful summer days! Everything is great! Wish you were here. Xoxo.”
Brodsky starts his Song with these words “I wish you were here…” They become a sort of mantra, repeated throughout the whole piece over and over again. Any picture, no matter how beautiful and intricate, is incomplete without the one who really matters. Emigration is the start of a new life and a chance to rebuild yourself, but one day you find yourself rocking back and forth repeating I wish you were here, I wish you were here longing for that someone you left behind.