Monday, May 2, 2016

Chekhov by Austin Smith


They say you may have caught
tuberculosis from the peasants
who came to Melikhovo

to be seen by you. Hearing them
coughing in the hall you put down
your pen and rose from your desk.

Short of breath, they had travelled
all night to arrive by dawn, drawn
by rumors of your kindness.

While you warmed the stethoscope
in your hands and the old farmer
bared his chest, your character

stood patiently on the doorstep,
holding a letter of introduction
you had yet to write. The longer

you spent away from the story
the harder it would be to finish it,
but the hall was long, the line

out the door, and you would turn
none away, knowing how far
they had come for the comfort

of having someone
listen to their lungs and say it
sounded better than it sounded

while you stood breathing
in their sighs of relief,
saying, softly, “Next.”


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