She told me she bathed her Pomeranians,
today, all three, one at a time,
the unbathed hiding behind the couch,
terrified. And once bathed, gambolling
upstairs, pattering across the hard wood.
One more onerous task to check off
the list. It reminded me of Chekhov’s
tale, Lady with a Lapdog (a Pomeranian)
and that sad Yalta night wandering the woods,
strangers, knowing they only had a short time
together, and how the love they waged was a gamble.
Chekhov, the master who knew how to couch
the most bitter impossibilities—the empty couch,
delayed carriage, guttering candle, Chekhovian
touches, the last few rubles gambled
away as the Gypsy sings and the Pomeranian
snarls. Snow drifting, piling upon time,
they pray that something would
break the monotony–a wolf howling in the woods.
The old father, his congestive heart, slumped on the couch,
his silent mate, their neurasthenic son wasting time,
you think, oh, of course, another minor story by Chekhov,
but it’s really those same freshly bathed Pomeranians
she told me about as we drove past the gambling
casino on I-75. Besides, if the son did gamble
away the family nest egg, it probably would
be Dostoevsky squandering his legacy in a Pomeranian
resort on the Baltic, collapsed on a hotel couch,
his impoverished mother taking in laundry. Chekhov
was loathe to leave Russia and the one time
he did, it was to die in Germany—to save time
his body packed in frozen oysters. It’s always a gamble
to invoke the genius of Chekhov,
to venture forth into that dark inhabited wood,
to cautiously avoid all hints of the Freudian couch,
to ensure that this sestina is only about Pomeranians.
LEONARD KRESS has published poetry and fiction in Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, Crab Orchard Review, American Poetry Review, Atticus Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex, Living in the Candy Store, and Thirteens. He teaches philosophy, religion, and creative writing at Owens College in Ohio and serves as fiction editor for Artful Dodge.