Matryoshkina

The old poet writes his best at Gorky’s.
Gorky’s florescent girl rests her breasts
on the ash-burned splotched wood of his high table,
rests his Matryoshkina, overpoured, on a stained
embroidered doily at his left hand. The poised
cigarette between her yellowed fingers, her pink
nails, surprise him with delicacy, every time.
She smiles, sideways, over a high zygomatic.
Thank you Pastushka, he says, in English.
The locals understand.

He sips, adjusts his tablet, skims his fingertips
over the cool cambric, slides his marbled
gold-nibbed English pen from its leathern pouch.
His subconscious drivel-detector blocks
the gnashing TV voice, the churl’s face.
Gorky’s girl watches, agrypnotic, from the bar.

Fluently he writes (the effort is behind him)
in his polished, idiosyncratic hand (derived from copperplate)
of heroic quests, of demons, wizards, villains,
of unsullied mothers and the progeny of Gods,
and of the pastoral life of long ago;
adding his bit (thus he truckles himself)
to the treasury of tales that make life livable.
It’s neither hobby nor obsession; it’s a liability,
a debt he pays.

She brings another, and another, overpoured
(he tips well). Gorky’s rich, she smiles,
poets aren’t. Then it’s over, satisfying
as an achieved climax after half-century’s loving.
His only regret: he couldn’t find a rhyme for
shepherdess.

His daughter moved here two years ago.
He walks to her house in the woods beyond the town,
a shabby mile watched by beggars, derelicts,
pimps, and post-pubescent policemen with Tommy guns.
Over-burdened housewives plod the streets, blinkered
under drab headscarves.

They talk while his grandson uploads his poem to a web site
back in the States. Poetry’s cool, the boy says,
so why do all these poets have girls’ names?
Boys write poetry at school. He’s even teaching them
to write in English. His daughter’s glad he writes,
says for somebody his age it’s good for the brain.

Will anyone read it?

Oh they read it all right.

Feminine nouns annoy. This is the twenty-first
century. Write words people understand.
Gods? Heros? Metrics? Who cares?
Obviously you need to go to a workshop. I’m giving one,
next month, on a cozy campus among
the snowy maples of Vermont.

A workshop? He checks her poetry. Oh? Oh.

Could he too, in a cozy, gas-heated log cabin
in Vermont, write a poem on waking up at night
feeling fruitless, unfulfilled?

Gorky’s girl brought him three Matryoshkinas,
overpoured, before he found a rhyme for
termagant.

Miamisburg, Ohio, 2013