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  CARDINAL POINTS: THE CURRENT ISSUE
Sylvia Moss
EXPLANATION OF WAR

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Sylvia Moss
RUSSIAN DREAMS

From my father I learned
that to be part of the intelligentsia -
he pronounced it with a hard g,
not the soft sound in angels -
meant that always in your house
there must be room for friends.
And they might stay all evening,
long memorable evenings. At the table
everyone talking at once,
squares of cake, glasses of tea,
laughter, endless argument.

Not that my father was ever part of this -
as I see him he stands to one side,
an impresario who holds back a great curtain,
introducing us to an exile's dreams
of friendship-amplitude.


LETTER TO TOLSTOY

I keep getting involved in Russian history,
implicated in its stories.
Right now I have to know
do you have one hero who commits adultery
so that his life declines, nothing
prospers, while his unlovely wife
remains constant and he
and the arrogant, daring, completely
worthless woman he loves
are pitched outside the circle?

What if there is no returning,
the woman being lost and
no way out of the nineteenth century
and he, beyond self-forgiveness,
sees only wheels? I ask
because I am advised to cut my losses.


EARS OF WHEAT

When the wind blows, the whole field turns
and the wheat bends in one direction,
long arrows of wheat -

War seemed to come from the north,
and with it the occupying army:

I remember, I was little then,
the officers liked our house.
They were good to us,
they gave us one room. I remember
once I was very sick
and one of the officers
brought me an orange.
It was the first orange I had ever seen -

My mother's first war
and nothing she saw after
would bear that name -
as if she were marked by one man,
her original lover. Is it
my war? What is my part in this?


EXPLANATION OF WAR

Now there should be nothing green,
nothing alive. We're in a field
that should not flower
yet still a sun, still a moon,
the stars as small slashes -
I turn to my daughter but cannot explain
this field, golden in a time of war.


© Copyright Sylvia Moss
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