Before I met her I did not know tragedy
arrived inside words I would never know
from the other side of the world,
as razor sharp as the blade of a scythe.
I loved to read the Englishing these words
revealed of shifts of story’s poetry:
Pushkin’s duel to see the living die
in a tale whose poet is the hero,
mulatto scapegrace dying for women . . .
Doom in the lines of the palm of Chichikov’s hand
whipping horses to speed the devil across steppes
where Gogol throws his book into a fire . . .
Reprieved by miracle, Dostoevsky
lives underground with murderer Raskolnikov,
saintly fool Myshkin, the Demons and the Brothers.
The books Tolstoy writes and rewrites his wife copies
as he paints Levin scything wheat with serfs
and Anna, unfaithful and star crossed, suicides.
The serf’s son Chekhov becomes a doctor to purge
his slave’s blood and have time to write stories
and plays for his actress wife Olga, and then dies.
The joke Stalin murders Mandelstam for
breaks stone with tristia, the noise of time
is hope against hope, then hope abandoned.
For his pleasure fucking women, Babel
of Odessa, tied to his writing hand,
died somewhere convicted by his stories.
Pasternak composed Zhivago, who knew
the revolution backwards and could write,
Life is no walk across a field.
Consider Marina whose poetry
came to her lips from so far down
she could barely rise to gather the rope.
Akhmatova saw and never forgot
the verses she memorized word for word
until her hand broke free to write them down.
War brings full circle savagery of years
when no one could see or touch or taste love,
though I dream she’s with me through days and nights
we save from suffering and rejoice in the lift
of passion that opens into a realm
I enter when I call her by the name I know.
(3, 4, 5 July 2013)
copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander