Somebody Trying

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‘That creep Tolstoy,’ she sobbed.
‘He. . . He. . . couldn’t even. . .’
Something about his brother dying.

The serfs’ punishments
have not ceased to suppurate on their backs.
Woodlots. People. Someone crying

under the yellow
autumn birchgrove drove him
wild: A new set of resolves:

When gambling, that almost obsolete fever,
or three days with the gypsies
sparked him into pure ego, he could,

just the same, write home, ‘Sell them.’
It’s true. ‘Still,’ (someone who loved her said,
cold and firm while she dissolved,

hypocrite, in self disgust, lectrice)
‘Still, he kept on. He wrote
all that he wrote; and seems to have understood

better than most of us:
to be human isn’t easy. It’s not
easy to be a serf or a master and learn

that art. It takes nerve. Bastard. Fink.
Yet the grief
trudging behind his funeral, he earned.’

© Denise Levertov