I BECOME A CHARACTER IN A CHEKHOV STORY
(for Fiona Conway)
In the first story I ever read by Anton Chekhov,
A young boy moves away from his grandfather in Moscow
To some unfathomable part of Russia six time zones away.
The boy misses his grandfather, so he decides
To write him a letter. Once he does,
He addresses the envelope “Grandfather.”
But before he puts it in the mailbox, he thinks again,
Maybe that isn’t enough for the postman,
And adds “in the city” underneath.
The woman who is going to marry my nephew
Sent me a note thanking me for an engagement present.
She must have been interrupted between name
And address. The address is correct, and her note
Was promptly delivered to me. But she addressed the top line
Only to “Uncle Mark.”
I’m old now, officially, and I hate it
When people move away, when the Dirt Club
Is replaced by a place that sells cleaners.
But I’m also the kid, age 5, being driven away
From the house where I lived with my grandfather,
Which had a breakfast nook and a delivery hatch
A small child could easily wiggle through,
An attic full of wasps and a sharp Knights of Columbus sword,
And an empty lot behind the house which in the Murmansk winters
Of midstate New York could sustain a snow fort for weeks.
My grandfather ran a furniture store.
The doors in the house were solid wood, he knew about wood.
He hung a Tiffany lamp in the breakfast nook,
Which was narrow enough you had to like the people you crowded in with.
It was only after I moved away I learned to be claustrophobic.
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