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Talking Over Chekov, Montauk Point

ISSUE:  Summer 1983
for aunt Nona

I breathe the clear Crimean air.
You tell me of a time that’s lost,
a world of figs and gold leaf
where my father as a boy stood
knee-deep in the mussel shells.

We are drawn back to this place
like sea gulls to the scene of bait,
a hollow dune that catches
all the cast-up shells.

The gentle doctor of Crimea’s shore
who took the sick into his arms
has left us with these lines:
“know why you live or everything
is wild grass.”

The winding path that took us
here unwinds beneath the rolling
scrub. We cannot see its way;
bayberry and primrose are
all that pull us out.

My father still courses
with his hands through
the mire of my human veins,

knee-deep in the early tide,
I follow sultry undulations
of the day. It is Masha
that I hear—her heart becoming
stone beneath the froth.

I cast her droning from my chest
back to the sea where even algae drown.

I take the spade my father passes down,
unwrap the stethoscope
he left in his bag,

and write for my own race
what of the world we can replace.


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