For Isabel and Paul
By Roy Dean Doughty
At this time of evening, the shadows play
Such a decided role in our contemplation
Of nostalgia, that we cannot orient ourselves
To their lengthening, without some small
Acceleration in the depletion of our vital forces.
Distance is everywhere â€” in the masses of trees,
In the glass panes burning in the buildings
On the hill, in the soft brush that becomes
A claw and obliterates distinction. Everything blurs,
Except that singe monument: the hospital where
She died. Da, Inessa, the psychic, the clairvoyant,
The vedâ€™ma from a vanished world of isolated
Villages and superstitious moujiks, is dead. The fact
Is so incredible â€” although she was unfathomably
Old, blind in one eye, and hobbled through
Her humble trailer, parked amid towers
Of affluence, on swollen ankles, her one tooth
Forever hungry, her aching head always bandaged
Against our too physical American reality
By a damp babushka â€” it is worth repeating.
Inessa, the vedâ€™ma, is dead. She ate no children,
Tricked no bridegrooms, turned no humans
Into wild animals. On the contrary, Inessa
Was a saint, who took twisted root in California
Soil out of the old wickedness and magic
Of primordial Russia. Here, she, with deliberation,
Cast aside the trifling pursuits of money
And motherhood, to close her eyes, and talk to God,
For others. Letâ€™s say it again,
So that we may return for one last time
To the nostalgia studio, which is now going
Black and emptying quickly of supplicants.
Inessa, the friend of friends, the friend of
The Friend, the friend, our friend, is dead.
Da, true, the Dark man grinned. What else
Could he do, his curses of white swellings
And bloating hydremia having only filled
Her body with sanctified oils and made it
A refuge for Christâ€™s forgotten ones.
She is free, and he must collapse in ashes.
Because she knew, she knows, that if life
Is a martyrdom, then death itself must die.
Because at this time of evening, it must
Be like this. Da. Da. A lengthening
Of shadows, a hurricane of gold,
All the statues of her afflictions and recitations
Quiet now, in that distance, which can only
Bring more comfort as it grows.
Quiet now, running now, like a flurry
Of blue and copper ghosts along dayâ€™s last
Crumbling battlements, approaching truth
By way of eccentric passion,
In that big chair, with her fat bare feet aloft,
Her head thrown back among the laughing stars.