poem

From Russia, With Love

“I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.”
-Boris Pasternak

I can’t pinpoint the reason, but there are some historical cultures I’ve just always been fascinated by, like Ancient Egypt or 20th century Germany. At any point in it’s timeline, I have a feeling surpassing curiosity about Russia. Though I’m no expert in Russian history, it’s difficult to ignore the impact of the country’s past on it’s artists. While I love the whimzy of The Nutcracker, I’m drawn to the dramatic minor chords of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. I read Atlas, Shrugged by the great Ayn Rand last year, and developed a major girl-crush on assertive Dagny Taggart. I’m recording the War and Peace TV miniseries adapted from Tolstoy’s popular novel, and I’m currently working on Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which I’m finding to be a pleasantly surprising page-turner even though I’m a slow reader.

With all of this Russian through my head (!), I thought a lame pun could be excused (?). Really, though, when I found out it was Boris Pasternak’s birthday today (1890-1960), it seemed fitting to pay it forward, and not in rubles.

Pasternak penned the novel that became one of my favorite films, Doctor Zhivago. In the story, Zhivago is both an upper crust doctor and love-torn poet at the mercy of the Russian Civil War. Wrongly labeling Pasternak a novelist, I learned that he only wrote the one, and is well-known in Russia for his poetry. I found the below poem at PoetryFoundation.org and thought first of a woman, then of the White army:

Fresh Paint
I should have seen the sign: “Fresh Paint,”
But useless to advise
The careless soul, and memory’s stained
With cheeks, calves, hands, lips, eyes.

More than all failure, all success,
I loved you, for your skill
In whitening the yellowed world
As white cosmetics will.

Listen, my dark, my friend: by God,
All will grow white somehow,
Whiter than madness or lamp shades
Or bandage on a brow.

Ill-anelle, or, The Hypochondriac

Do I feel warm? Put your hand on my head,
I’m burning up, but my hands are cold.
I think I’m coming down with something bad…

My neck is stiff and my eyes are red,
And look—-I never noticed this weird mole.
What do you think? Put your hand on my head.

I could have forgotten to take my meds,
and I ate some chicken that was getting old.
I may have caught something seriously bad!

Maybe pox? Or measles? Something that spreads?
You could have it, too, something out of our control.
Hold still; let me put my hand on your head…

Honestly, you seem fine… But I feel half-dead!
I read about this in Diseases, Foretold
You should always assume it’s something bad.

Don’t I seem woozy? I should be in bed…
And that incessant humming; it’s taking its toll!
I’ve got to get an ice pack on my head,
I’m in real pain here, and it’s worse than bad!

Sonnet for Someday

Sonnet for Someday

Someday, my sore foot won’t even matter.
Someday, I’ll take an inventory on
my life and barely recall this chapter.
Am I unhappy? No… But the day’s gone
so fast, and I can’t remember what I
ate for breakfast let alone what memor-
able thing happened. People tell me “try
to live in the moment!” I can’t afford
that, though. I can’t play Ferris Bueller and
seize the day. Who will pay my rent, or do
my homework, or write lame sonnets? I can’t
take a break without my plan falling through.

Eventually, The Grind will abate,
Just like today is yesterday’s Someday.

For You

Just for you
not anyone else
    because I sat at work alone
    and laughed
    when I remembered your Papa John impression.
Just for you
    because I can’t go all day
    without thinking
    about what you’re thinking
    or what you’ll eat for dinner.
Not anyone else
    because I never
    want to kiss anyone
    the way I kiss you.
Just for you
    because you gave me
    my favorite place to be:
    tucked under your arm
    with my head on your chest.
Not anyone else
    because you’re the only one
    who can make the switch
    and be safe
    and, go ahead, laugh. It’s funny.
Just for you
    because I’ll never love anyone else
    as much as I love you.

A Woman Is Never Just One

Somewhere in between a hero and a
villain, between life and death, is woman.
She is praying in China and she is
studying law in Montreal. Never
once has she been singular. Never just
a woman, but a collection of one.

Between honey and vinegar, someone
in 1591 experienced a
side of one woman. Just one side of just
one woman. One facet of one lady.
She’s always on because she is never
off. Her identity throughout time is

evolving yet constant. From birth she is
innocent, each moment she grows by one.
One moment in one mosaic you’ll never
see because it burned to ashes in a
forest fire. Each child has had a mother
who surrendered part of her body just

to keep life going, whether it was just-
ified or not; and every mother is
an intricate machine called a female.
Every cell must sing with another one
to nurture a heartbeat to become a
fresh person. And she can cry when ever

she must without judgment, but she never
cries for the wrong reason. And tears are just
a tiny salty waterway down a
cheek in a grayscale photograph that is
aging in a damp basement of someone
you know. Somewhere in between a school girl

and a matron is one side of one her,
one face of one diamond that will never
be extracted from one chip of one stone
buried five hundred feet deep. Each side just
a glimpse of the whole, just as each whole is
a glimpse of what is woman. She is a

book that misses its title, because just
one title never captures all she is,
someone in between zeta and alpha.

As published in Arches – Fall 2014, the Mount Mary University student periodical