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In our linen press, there’s dust and worms
from a cache of bitter hazelnuts.
We are always hiding things
there and among the burning haystacks.
Hello, lost thing waiting to be found.
On Yasnaya Polyana
the bloody stigmata of skinned rabbits;
if not meat ourselves, we must now shun meat.

Smell the jonquils and urgent young men,
palms stained with raspberry juice–
that dizziest of summer fruits.
Their souls run clear
as the last wash water from a stream.
Mother notices how they stink
but their mouths hum bee-bright,
majestying me, trading a kopek for a kiss.

It’s me he loves; my defection will burn.
He really knows little of women, anyhow.
Remember his Anna? He threw her under a train.

As he drinks fresh koumiss on the wild steppes,
miming how one holds a mare’s bridle
while another rolls and pinches her teats,
he evolves his theory of suffering.
Dinner is the gospels and this equine milk.
I too ask only for the homeliest things.

Sonya: We must never forget who we are.
Lev: We must forget who we are.

The buried boys whicker
for the blackbird priests.
Those who don’t fill their mouths with earth
go dancing in slim bare feet.
Poor Alyosha smells of apples and weeds,
but we are not to grieve too much.
I left for him the little carved horse
and the letter A from my ancient spelling book.

In your twenty-first century bed
dream us, these small spaces between the crowning
and the hummocks we kneel upon.
We are all his creatures, with the hedgehogs and mice.

But how impatient he’s grown with those who love him,
how he pares the gospels to a nub with his old knife!
Even the Tsar is afraid of him.
Only his own dark soul may chasten him.

Blessed the great wind even though it will kill us.
Blessed the graves where the lonely clutch hands.
Apple blossoms drift over the far acres, toward Tula,
over grass crushed gold by holy fools.

PS My dear Masha died in my arms–Lev.


Carol Alexander is the author of the chapbook Bridal Veil Falls (Flutter Press, 2013), and the poetry collection Habitat Lost (Cave Moon Press, 2017). Her latest poetry book, Environments, is scheduled for publication by Dos Madres Press, 2018. Recent and forthcoming work can be found in Home Planet News Online, Southern Humanities Review, SWWIM Everyday, J Journal, Leveler, Third Wednesday and The Main Street Rag.

© 2018, Carol Alexander

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