The Back Door of Death

The train that everyone misses
(and what's more important, that
everything misses) -
I am always on.

-Marina Tsvetayeva


"Marina." I want to roll the swell
of your archaic name on my tongue.

"Marina." I want to slip my hand
between the frantic, unfinished pages
of your life.

And tramp the deep snow
in Yelabuga, near the house where you died,
the top button of your dress
undone even then in anticipation
of something finer.

"Marina." You could only survive
as a thistle
in a wild, neglected garden;
a tall, ungainly anti-rose
whose voice turned like a drill,
whirring then plastering
those you brazenly loved
with little scraps of honesty.

"Marina." Gone-a-long-time,
slow-letter-sender.
I've waited all my life
for a letter from you.
"Nothing. Nothing. Nothing."

You left Moscow too soon.
You left like a conductor
drunk on grief,
arms flailing but unheeded
between the run-away trains
of hope and despair.

"Marina,"
you got on before I did,
then you missed a connection,
and landed instead
in some wretched country station
without tables or chairs.
Some four-walled prayer
thrown up against
the vast Russian discontent...

You had money in your pockets,
but you could not spend it.
You had a new summer dress,
but you could not wear it.
You had a son, a daughter,
husband, friend, and lover,
but your sentence
was life without correspondence.

"Marina." I can't even glance
at the necklace you wore
while you twisted from a harness nail
beneath your unbraided hair.

And who stood on the chair
to cut you down?
I hope they were tender with you.
I hope they touched that place
on your neck where you forced the pain
to take even itself away.

And that stray dog, Efron,
was he waiting there to greet you?
Mandel'shtam with his wavy hair?
Blok, Mayakovsky, Rilke?
Moscow with all its excuses?
"We have not a metre to spare..."

Did a tower suddenly loom
above the frozen garden,
as in Paris, or at Muzot?
Were you surprised at the light?
That train whistles and thunder
ceased to inspire you? And finally,
there at the back door of death,
that you were let in at all?


- Greg Simon


Eurydice to Orpheus