There was always a hint of that classic Nutcracker number
in my saunter down Tchaikovsky Street
from my job as a taste-tester at the candy factory Red October
to my second job at the candy factory Bolshevik.
I kept waiting for you to notice that hint.
When you received that genuine Wedgwood bowl
from all those Olympic teams you had led to gold,
did you think of my ballet school diploma,
or my triumphant reports on deluxe dark chocolate bars?
You see, you were never floored by the color
of my hair, you were never floored by the way
I checked my dress in the mirror. You were never floored
by my day-to-day choreography,
by the abandon with which I pounced on the lower octaves
of your candelabraed upright piano.
I knew we would miss our 50-year anniversary.
And I know we won’t live to see our 75th.
Still, on that Leningrad white night,
hanging out with your track-and-field team, you tried
to hold on to the chestnut scarf I had dropped,
and though I snatched it from you,
I knew we’d end up together.
Now, after your third stroke,
I could dangle all the scarves I have ever owned
in front of you, and you wouldn’t know they were mine.
I could ask you questions to make you figure it out,
make you Sherlock your way to the only reasonable conclusion,
but still it wouldn’t click,
just like the description
of a chocolate bar’s shape and taste
doesn’t make someone blind from birth
understand the color brown.
Sometimes I rush to change your bed sheets,
go down to the laundromat,
come back to hug you,
comb your beard.
Sometimes I go to the store.
You smile: “Don’t go!”
I fear those words will be the last I hear,
so I always hurry back home
down Lenin Avenue
with a loaf of bread.
Anton Yakovlev’s latest poetry collection is Ordinary Impalers (Kelsay Books, 2017). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Hopkins Review, Prelude, Measure, and elsewhere. The Last Poet of the Village, a book of translations of poetry by Sergei Esenin, is forthcoming from Sensitive Skin Books in 2017.