Friday, June 27, 2008

A Poetry Friday original: On Reading Anna Karenina for the Eleventh Time

It's summer here in Smalltown, which means I'm reading what I want when I want. (I collect lists and stacks for each and every summer.) Currently I'm reading Dear American Airlines, listening to Atmospheric Disturbances, and reading a number of children's books for review. But today it hit me: Come fall, I'm going to be reading Anna Karenina yet again. I honestly have no idea how many times I've read and taught this novel. I chose eleven for the title, but only because I like that number.

On Reading Anna Karenina for the Eleventh Time

Once a year I think of you,
in a black velvet dress, eyes
flashing and shattering hearts.
The opera. Trains. A red handbag.
Can I break that aged spine
and live your torment anew?

At sixteen I understood:
Karenin is bo-ring!
He has big ears. Pe-Dan-Tic.
Of course you must leave for
dancing dangerous Vronsky.
At twenty five I understood
life is difficult, there are
many choices. Husband. Son.
New man. How could you have known
you’d chosen so tragically?
At forty I understood
Tolstoy meant it: “Vengeance is
mine; I will repay.” For what
was Vronsky but a spoiled frat
boy you chose over your son?

Can I travel your road again?
I don’t know. But at least I’ll
have Shcherbatsky, Stiva,
and Dolly to walk me through
with joy, humor, and faith,
to the very bitter end.

Jennie, who studied in Smalltown, is on the roundup this week at Biblio File. Head on over and leave your links...

Don't get me wrong: I certainly appreciate Anna Karenina and consider it to be, structurally speaking, a great novel. Maybe THE great novel. But my heart remains true to War and Peace and to the Tolstoy who wrote War and Peace.