Nights of Zhivago
BY DENNIS HINRICHSEN
for my mother
I carry your loneliness inside me like a horse, one
of those trotters from Zhivago, a movie
you saw three nights running
when I was young
and you were young and there was still
in Super Panavision.
You loved the scalar immensity, Sharif’s
Egyptian eyes burning white Russian
in a dream
of perfect marriage.
Who could blame you? Husband in another town,
the next move, home
only weekends. The American Dream:
ranch house with leaky basement,
like an artificial heart on a stem.
Children: burning out their lives like orphans.
Night 1: you bought us
popcorn so we would quiet
and the gray of the screen
could become the gray of your mind
in fur and pink: skeletal Chaplin.
She had your body, wisp
of a girl
with girlish hips, but awash
in glamour, wealth. She wins
Zhivago it seems. You go a second time
to be certain.
Take a friend
a blond like Lara,
the rumor went—embezzled,
slept around, slapped
her now and then. I think it helped,
with the brute,
Victor Ipolitovich Komarovsky,
loneliness. Shape of a woman
like the shape of a horse.
put aside wet. You hated
Steiger forever after that. Begrudged
even the Oscar. Was he
The man from across the street?
The Zhivago children the four
snot-nosed kids you left at home—
me? When you returned, a glass
was broken, we were bloodied,
fighting. You threatened to leave—
I threw you
the keys—you stayed.
Night 3: you went alone.
into that slow section—
Lara helping Zhivago—
you, too, were a nurse. They
in love, beautifully,
without touching. Mend
And then the horse again—
Varykino, Yuriatin. Zhivago
wife to lover,
his passion abducted, con-
His trudging back in snow.
Varykino again. Lara
again. It’s really a house in Spain
filled with beeswax,
the cold an illusion, Hollywood lighting
bathing Christie’s blue eyes (yours
as Christie as Lara lounged,
as you as Lara lounged, while
Zhivago penned the poems. To the adored.
He has his back
to her—a candle rages—
she is sleeping. I watch it three nights
before I understand the scene.
Then l know—it is you who is awake—
by a strange alchemy—you as Zhivago—
the un-beloved, become the lover.
The unending monologues when I was home
the weekly phone calls,
word and word and word,
when I moved away, the tapes
of your singing—at church,
with Streisand—the letters
with profiles of Indian doctors you loved,
as dark as Sharif’s
but with sharper knives. How you
let them cut you again and again,
scalpel as poem
and dear heart, are you breathing,
what can I do to ease the pain?
40 years of this.
A staggering array of scars and drugs.
Ankle, knee, heart, gut.
The writings, the tapes, the “poems”—
I stored in a box until—
because I am your coltish son—I trashed.
I am broken-hearted, late adoring, yours
after all, sentenced to a few crude scenes.
Dennis Hinrichsen’s most recent works are Skin Music, co-winner of the 2014 Michael Waters Poetry Prize from Southern Indiana Review Press, and Electrocution, A Partial History, winner of the Rachel Wetzsteon Chapbook Prize from Map Literary: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and Art. Both will appear in 2015. His previous books include Rip-tooth (2010 Tampa Poetry Prize) and Kurosawa’s Dog (2008 FIELD Poetry Prize). An earlier work, Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights, received the 1999 Akron Poetry Prize. New poems appear in the anthologies Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry, New Poetry From the Midwest 2014, Clash by Night (an anthology inspired by The Clash’s London Calling) and Best of the Net 2014.
More by Dennis Hinrichsen:
"Radio Motown," Poetry, Issue Eleven.