Russian Wood

Howie Faerstein

“All happy families are like one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
— Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

So much isn’t written because it’s almost winter,
bare trees in the foreground,
scrape of light,
slant of wind.
And so when I read the opening of Anna Karenina to my love,
beautiful with her dog and a book in bed,
I understand there is nothing of logic to Tolstoy’s setup,
only a way in for the rest.

Just like last week at the Silverbrook Cafe,
a band playing The Tennessee Waltz at our entrance,
Ramadan and Hanukah falling together,
full turnip moon backlighting the bar,
folks tripping across the lath of the dance floor,
not involved in the search for sequence
or god.

Right up till this moment of composition—
like a director forced by rain to shoot
the last shot first
the first shot last—
I have been someone else. Never thinking:

blue and yellow flowers blackened, yard white. Advent upon us,
Anna suspended beneath the wheels of a train,
a porter on the platform selling kvass.
How can birds be on the road
flashing tail white against standing dead trees?
How can a junco be small and in flight
but not leaves breathing?
How can there not be tenderness?

Previously published in Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts (Vol. 6, Number 1, Spring 2009) and Dreaming of the Rain in Brooklyn


Howie Faerstein’s latest collection is Out of Order (Main Street Press). Two previous books, Dreaming of the Rain in Brooklyn and Googootz are available from Press 53. Recent poetry and reviews can be found in On the Seawall, Nine Mile, Nixes Mate, Banyan Review, Rattle, upstreet, Verse Daily and Connotation. He’s co-poetry editor of CutThroat, and lives in Florence, Massachusetts. https://howiefaerstein.com