Years later, in childless age,
She’d remember. Her strange complaint
That autumn of married love,
His sullen reading, page by page –
The Possessed – by the kerosene stove
All winter. ‘Be a saint
Or nothing’ the priests had told him.
And slowly, body and soul,
They’d grown together. The halfwit,
Sister to Captain Lebyadkin,
And Nikolai, who’d married her for a bet.
Nothing, not even the catkins
Tasselling branches, greening in Spring,
Could equal that miracle summer, ten years long,
With the rumour-mongers
Silenced, and the immaculate Face
Etched with suffering, spiritual hunger,
Unclouding out of shame, disgrace,
Between them, like a moon…
A fist at the door –
Lebyadkin, drunk. Behind him a rabble,
The world. She’d sit there
Gazing, all her cards on the table
Splayed for patience, into her looking-glass –
And the stove, where he’d read The Possessed,
Grey ashes now. They were all dead.
The miraculous had happened, just that once.
Abstractedly, out of her wits,
She’d tear at the hunk of black bread
And go on living, to outwait
Her libertine, her prince.