Copyright 2013 Society Nineteen. Website designed by Bookstrategy and hosted on Homestead.
     1. Melikhovo, 1894

Today, her mind is a place
of waltzing gondolas,
cafés of gleaming men
this young woman
on a white iron bench, in the shade
of a shuttered house. Dear Masha,
she reads, The sky is overcast,
and Italy without sunshine
is like a person in a mask.
Here the apricot trees insist
a tangle of leaves and swollen fruit
over everything: fat cabbages
and awkward cucumbers,
the ducks' ridiculous chatter.
Her skirts feel heavy, anchored.
She lets the letter fall
and a limp wind makes it travel.

In her brother's room, barely opened
or touched, in the armoire, flannel
and woolen suits obediently wait.
On his desk, layers of undusted books
seem almost to be sleeping.
At night, Maria Pavlovna
creeps in, turns down the bed.

In the dream, she is balancing
on a ship's rain-slapped prow.
Ahead the Volga bulges, gray
as someone near death.
Dim plains of ice
float in her wake
like undiscovered countries.
When she squints, they disappear.

     2. Moscow, 1912

Years ago the letters
stopped suddenly. Loudly.
Thinner, in pale winter dress
she stands in her classroom before a map
of Europe outlined in primary colors,
the dense mass of Russia
corporeal, stationary. She points
to the poised boot of Italy—
what was it she wanted to say?
While rows of girls lift
their unlined faces,
trying hard to see.

Poetry continued here
by Jennifer O'Grady

(After Chekov's letters)
Poet and playwright Jennifer O'Grady received her B.A. from Vassar College and her M.F.A. in Writing from the Columbia University School of the Arts. Her poems have been published in journals including Harper's and The New Republic, collected in the volume White (Mid-List Press), and featured on The Writer's Almanac. Be sure to read the Society Nineteen interview with Jennifer about her play Charlotte's Letters, upcoming in the January 19 issue. Find out more about Jennifer and her work at her website here. Geography, Traces, and Water Journal are reprinted from White and © Jennifer O'Grady; special thanks to The Southern Review, where Geography first appeared.