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WRITING TO ONEGIN

Written by: Ruth Padel | Biography
 (After Pushkin) 
Look at the bare wood hand-waxed floor and long 
White dressing-gown, the good child's writing-desk 
And passionate cold feet
Summoning music of the night - tumbrils, gongs
And gamelans - with one neat pen, one candle
Puttering its life out hour by hour.
Is "Tell Him I love him" never a good idea? You can't wish this Unlived - this world on fire, on storm Alert, till the shepherd's song Outside, some hyper-active yellowhammer, bulbul, Wren, amplified in hills and woods, tell her to bestow A spot of notice on the dawn.
* "I'm writing to you.
Well, that's it, that's everything.
You'll laugh, but you'll pity me too.
I'm ashamed of this.
I meant to keep it quiet.
You'd never have known, if - I wish - I could have seen you once a week.
To mull over, day And night, the things you say, or what we say together.
But word is, you're misogynist.
Laddish.
A philanderer Who says what he doesn't mean.
(That's not how you come across To me.
) Who couldn't give a toss for domestic peace - Only for celebrity and showing off - And won't hang round in a provincial zone Like this.
We don't glitter.
Though we do, Warmly, truly, welcome you.
* "Why did you come? I'd never have set eyes On a star like you, or blundered up against This crazed not-sleeping, hour after hour In the dark.
I might have got the better of My clumsy fury with constraint, my fret For things I lack all lexica and phrase-book art To say.
I might have been a faithful wife; a mother.
But that's all done with.
This is Fate.
God.
Sorted.
Here I am - yours, to the last breath.
I couldn't give my heart to anyone else.
My life till now has been a theorem, to demonstrate How right it is to love you.
This love is love to death.
* "I knew you anyway.
I loved you, I'm afraid, In my sleep.
Your eyes, that denim-lapis, grey-sea- Grey-green blue, that Chinese fold of skin At the inner corner, that shot look Bleeping "vulnerable" under the screensaver charm, Kept me alive.
Every cell, every last gold atom Of your body, was engraved in me Already.
Don't tell me that was dream! When you came in, Staring round in your stripey coat and brocade Vest, I nearly died! I fainted, I was flame! I recognized The you I'd always listened to alone, when I wrote Or tried to wrestle my scatty soul into calm.
* "Wasn't it you who slipped through the transparent Darkness to my bed and whispered love? Aren't you My guardian angel? Or is this arrant Seeming, hallucination, thrown Up by that fly engineering a novel does So beguilingly, or poems? Is this mad? Are there ways of dreaming I don't know? Too bad.
My soul has made its home In you.
I'm here and bare before you: shy, In tears.
But if I didn't heft my whole self up and hold it there - A crack-free mirror - loving you, or if I couldn't share It, set it out in words, I'd die.
* "I'll wait to hear from you.
I must.
Please let me hope.
Give me one look, from eyes I hardly dare To look back at.
Or scupper my dream By scolding me.
I've given you rope To hang me: tell me I'm mistaken.
You're so much in The world; while I just live here, bent on jam And harvest, songs and books.
That's not complaint.
We live such different lives.
So - this is the end.
It's taken All night.
I'm scared to read it back.
I'm faint With shame and fear.
But this is what I am.
My crumpled bed, My words, my open self.
All I can do is trust The whole damn lot of it to you.
" * She sighs.
The paper trembles as she presses down The pink wax seal.
Outside, a milk mist clears From the shimmering valley.
If I were her guardian Angel, I'd divide myself.
One half would holler Don't! Stay on an even keel! Don't dollop over All you are, to a man who'll go to town On his next little fling.
If he's entranced today By the way you finger your silk throat inside your collar, Tomorrow there'll be Olga, Sally, Jane.
But then I'd whisper Go for it, petal.
Nothing's as real as what you write.
His funeral, if he's not up to it.
What we feel Is mortal, and won't come again.
* So cut, weeks later, to an outside shot: the same girl Taking cover ("Dear God, he's here, he's come!") Under fat red gooseberries, glimmering hairy stars: The old, rude bushes she has hide-and-seeked in all Her life, where mother commands the serfs to sing While picking, so they can't hurl The odd gog into their mouths.
No one could spy Her here, not even the sun in its burn-time.
Her cheeks Are simmering fire.
We're talking iridescence, a Red Admiral's last tremble Before the avid schoolboy plunks his net.
Or imagine * A leveret - like the hare you shot, remember? Which ran round screaming like a baby? Only mine is shivering in papery winter corn, While the hunter (as it might be, you) stomps his Hush Puppies through dead brush.
Everything's quiet.
She's waited - how long? - ages: stoking pebbly embers Under the evening samovar, filling The Chinese teapot, sending coils of Lapsang Suchong Floating to the ceiling in the shadows, tracing O and E In the window's black reflection, one finger Tendrilling her own breath on the glass.
Like putting a shell to your ear to hear the sea * When it's really your own red little sparkle, the echo Of marching blood.
She's asking a phantom World of pearled-up mist for proof That her man exists: that gamelans and tumbrils Won't evade her.
But now, among The kitchen garden's rose-haws, mallow, Pernod- Coloured pears, she unhooks herself thorn by thorn For the exit aria.
For fade-out.
Suddenly there he is In the avenue, the man she's written to - Charon Gazing at her with blazing eyes! Darth Vader From Star Wars.
She's trapped, in a house she didn't realize Was burning.
Her letter was a gate to the inferno.
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(This poem appeared in Pushkin: An Anthology, ed.
E.
Feinstein, Carcanet 1999)



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