Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sonya's Tale Of Rasputin

My sister is older than me,
by over a hundred years;
Daddy a dynamo, prolific,
with new wives as often as new cars.

Sis's name is Sonya,
and she spoke to me, 
not a year after she died.
My tea had gone cold on the night table,
and so she brought a samovar and a tale to tell,
waking me with a kiss. 

Being kissed by ghosts may be a Russian thing,
like the men getting drunk, or the inevitable failure of the collectives.
I patted the bed and we sat together,
like reindeer waiting to pull the sleigh of a midnight fable.
Finally, Sonya began.

"I met Grigori Rasputin in a barn when I was 17.
He was asleep, slack-jawed in late morning half-light,
the motes spinning lazily around him like stars. 
The Russian cross he wore
and the vodka bottle he cradled
both shone as if they had souls of their own."

I propped myself up with an elbow and listened.

"There are ways and there are ways, little sparrow," Sonya went on.
"Labor is productive, prayer is powerful.
But sometimes the breeze stirs the leaves just as if they were barynya dancers. 
All I did was set my bucket down and join him--a breeze myself--
and he showed me how God created the world."

I said, "They say he stank. That he was insane!
How could you--"

"Pochemuchka," my sister whispered, 
"Madness is essentially Russian. Without that,
without hallucinations in our blood, how could we endure the winter?
And he smelled only of straw,
holiness, and masculine vigor."

Sonya smiled then.
"Little One, do you remember my oldest,
the sandy-haired one, my poet who died on the battlefield in 1915?
Of course you wouldn't. I forget how young you are."
She looked far away for a moment, even for a ghost.
"He had the gift.
The same one you have,
a closeness with the spirit world, and an appetite for everything."

The tea was gone.
Even here, dawn arrives eventually.
Sonya finished her story, saying,
"I warned Grigori to beware

of cakes, aristocrats, bullets, and wide cold waters. 
He laughed, his big bearded head thrown back,
a booming laugh like a fireball landing in a Siberian forest.
He told me he already knew."

With that, Sonya was gone.
Our old one-eyed rooster crowed outside in the yard.
I sat up, pushing my long hair back with my fingers,
and collected my coat, scarf, and ice skates.
Out, then, to the pond where a local fox keeps her den full of kits,
watching my every move.
I spread my arms out to glide, easy as branches in a breeze,
not needing to lay eyes on her to know, 
just the same, 
that she is there. 
________

for Out of Standard at Toads

pochemuchka--a child who asks a lot of questions

barynya--traditional "Cossack Dance" featuring the prisyadka, or knee-bend. 

11 comments:

said...

These are my favorite sections:

"There are ways and there are ways, little sparrow," Sonya went on.
"Labor is productive, prayer is powerful.
But sometimes the breeze stirs the leaves just as if they were barynya dancers. ..."

"Madness is essentially Russian. Without that,
without hallucinations in our blood, how could we endure the winter? ..."

"... He had the gift.
The same one you have,
a closeness with the spirit world, and an appetite for everything."


As I read the piece again and again, however, more phrases and lines of genius began to rise and ask for my attention.

Like this: "She looked far away for a moment, even for a ghost."

How long did this take you to write? I would like to look through your window and watch this unfold ... your writing of a poem.

brudberg said...

What a wonderful tale.. Rasputin and ghosts... and warn him of cakes bullets and cold water really made me remember the story. I wonder how you invent your stories. I might try sometimes but don't even get close.

Sherry Marr said...

Oh, you spin an enchanting tale...........Hats off, especially, to "like reindeer waiting to pull the sleigh of a midnight fable", and the pond, the fox and the outspread arms. Sigh. I can see it all.

Isadora Gruye said...

You had me at samovar! this is utter perfection. Specifically, I really like where the prompt took you, in conversing with ghosts and the creepy Rasputin dude. Thanks for posting to the out of standard!

Kerry O'Connor said...

I read your poem early this morning, and it had such an impact on me in my semi dream state. There is a level of intensity in the story-telling that not many can achieve in prose, let alone in poetry.

Jazzbumpa said...

I agree with everyone

This is magnificent

namaste
JzB

Herotomost said...

Son of a Gun, that was a force to be reckoned with, starting with the overall vibe which was vibrant and hopeful (even with the Russian theme, they don't all need to be depressing) in the underpinning with super nostalgic frosting on top. So many good lines. Ouch that's all I can say, fantastic.

Old Egg said...

This has realy made my day! How easily the reader is entrapped with your wonderful and mystical tale. Fabulous!

Gillena Cox said...

i do luv a good tale and this one was great!!!

much love...

hedgewitch said...

I love your Russian tales, Shay, and this one is one of the best. I can feel the tenuous mist-arms of the spirits, their whispery laughs, their own stories they are so desperate to tell coming through like late night radio from another state.Besides the foxes at the end, and the poet son, I especially loved this line..."a booming laugh like a fireball landing in a Siberian forest..." Of course he knew--and knowing doesn't change a thing. Thanks for making my morning.

Unknown said...

Wow, this is awesome. I love this.
MNL (from cactus haiku)