Poetry

Maria, 1878

From Susan Paddon's first collection of poetry, Two Tragedies in 429 Breaths (Brick Books).

Because it was a summer of brothers. Because

Taganrog was a stinkpot in July. Because they were five

for the holidays with their parents gone

on a pilgrimage (Moscow,

holy relics, Polytechnical exhibition,

rich cousins in Shuia).

But really because Maria

would remember the names of backstreet brothels,

the then foreign stench of lust and sweat

on her brothers’ coats, the stories

she could never

get clean.

And because later, much later,

she would hate it, and want it

and, even later, dream it again,

and all over

again.

This is the fourth of five poems in a series dedicated to Maria Chekhov. Read the fifth poem, The Night Before She Died.

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