Pennsylvania Whiskers & a Russian Lady

by Eric Chaet

On our way to march in Washington
we filed in from the bus, shaking with cold
breathing white vapor into the coal-grimey air
& hunched over the all-night counter among bleary miners—
strangers brought together
on another mission unlikely to succeed
for sanity & justice
elbowing mugs of steam to nostrils.

Drops of chocolate malt trembled at my new beard’s tips:
one blackened, wheat-bearded, piercing-eyed miner
swiveled on his stool, & bellowed for my benefit:
Let them whiskers grow, young fella! Let them whiskers grow!

There was giggling about it, rolling thru Maryland:
but I was thinking of the woman in the green dress
alone—she’d seemed old to me—at the free concert—
synchronized emanations from within the shell
Lake Michigan slapping its concrete shore—
one crew-cut summer evening in the Loop next to Mom—
who was carried as an infant from one empire to another
before I had a clue how Grant Park or Chicago came to be
or in which third doomed empire
Beethoven harvested, then deployed the sounds—
who, seeing my book, said, “Anna Karenina, ah!”
&, when I nodded, rattled Russian off
so hard & fast—I thought she’d cry
when she finally noticed my uncomprehending eye.


Previously published in East/West Journal (USA)


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