Those are the three angels, he said,
hosted by Abraham, painted by Rublev
around fourteen hundred.
You see how their wings arch
like storm clouds punched clean
by each gilt halo, by each halcyon feather —
such a treasure! and yet some say
this is not the original here in the Tretyakov,
but that a duplicitous docent
put up to it, who knows?
by a handsome benefactor, arranged
to have it brought out at night, between shifts.
A moonless night, gentlemen,
the streets wet, silvery wet,
the discriminating collector waiting in a black car
smoking black Sobranies with gilt foils:
the slim ones, made for women
but preferred by him;
he tapped the window with a cane
and the driver, after we — after we, ha! absurd!
(after they, I should say)
received the package, sped away.
The streets were silver wet, the stubs
of cigarettes on the ground, only metres
from the Kremlin.
Think of it — the gold foil,
the gold spires, under the paper
the three angelic heads still shining
after all these years of soot and smoke!
And the sound of the Chaika,
the rumble of that perfect engine
on the cobbles, fading exquisitely
into the night — but I rattle on, eh?
To coffee! A short break
before we return to the bank perhaps?
Copyright © 2019 Lilibug Publishing.
I am haunted by the failures of great people:
how, inevitably, they were tossed out of Harvard,
eviscerated in newsprint,
cold-shouldered by forgotten matriarchs,
and I have to think
(you know where I’m going with this)
short of a criminal act,
how could I compete with the sad sack
who was Abraham Lincoln
before he was Abraham Lincoln,
the tubercular Eugene O’Neill,
the idiot Einstein,
the rejected Malcolm Lowry,
the incandescent torn and lovelorn
except by standing on point
in front of our two sleeping
with a scallopshell lampshade for a hat,
wrapped in a pale blue polyester brocade,
(keep it quiet, cats are sleeping)
could they do this?
At first, she sat in the corner sulking.
There was still a powder of stone on her skin.
Her shoulder, soft as a cat’s,
turned hard rounded in the palm,
but I was used to that.
After all, wasn’t that the idea?
To find a melting point for marble,
to have the crest of her hip push back,
flutter of breath
from the small cave of her mouth.
I just wasn’t ready for the opposite:
my want making her soft,
her hate reversing the charm:
petrifaction of love.
After four days I prayed
some god would take her back.
She wasn’t eating.
She drew caricatures of me
on the studio floor with a stick, saying,
Can’t I go outside? What are you looking at?
Don’t you have any friends?
Then nasty, knowing my weakness:
Can’t you make me a mate —
someone good-looking, younger, sexier?
When she stopped moving
I would pause
in the doorway from the garden,
crunching an apple, a sculptor again,
remaking her with my eyes,
smaller like a child.
They said we had a son,
but what do those liars know.
I took out my chisel.
The boy rose smiling
in the gravel of his mother’s arms.