“Love”, Bob Hicok
by Abner Dormiendo
Lev and Svetlana are science students at Moscow University.
They fall in love. World War II happens. Lev goes to war and is captured by the Germans. After the war, denounced by fellow Russians
who heard him speaking German, Lev is sentenced to death for treason,
his sentence commuted to ten years in the gulag. I am so far sorry
for Lev and Svetlana but not amazed. My amazement begins when Svetlana breaks into the gulag, not once but several times, to see and touch Lev.
I have lived for three weeks as a man who knows this thing was done,
have washed dishes and dug a trench trying to imagine her first step
after closing the door, the first step Svetlana took under the power
of the thought, I am going to sneak into the gulag. I felt I knew the world
and then found out it contained that first step and every next step
toward guns and dogs and the Arctic Circle, it made me so happy
that she did this that I dug a better trench and washed cleaner plates
and tried to think of a place on my wife’s body I’d never kissed.
I thought of such a place and kissed her there and explained
why kissing her there was the least I could do to show the world
I have a new and more generous understanding of life: I will get drunk
and throw knives at clouds but also kiss my wife’s darkest privacy
to demonstrate I am willing to convert reverence to deed.
After I told my wife the story of Lev and Svetlana, she went to the ground
and put her hands around a dead plant and screamed at it to try harder,
she looked foolish and I loved her even more and joined her in screaming
at death, it made me feel Russian and obstinate and eternal all good things
to feel, and where I kissed her isn’t necessarily where you’re thinking: maybe
miles into her ears and not with lips but words.
Happy Valentine’s Day!