Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


The Cossacks

for F.

For Jews, the Cossacks are always coming.
Therefore I think the sun spot on my arm
is melanoma. Therefore I celebrate
New Year's Eve by counting
my annual dead.

My mother, when she was dying,
spoke to her visitors of books
and travel, displaying serenity
as a form of manners, though 
I could tell the difference.

But when I watched you planning
for a life you knew
you'd never have, I couldn't explain
your genuine smile in the face
of disaster. Was it denial

laced with acceptance? Or was it
generations of being English--
Brontë's Lucy in Villette
living as if no fire raged
beneath her dun-colored dress.

I want to live the way you did,
preparing for next year's famine with wine
and music as if it were a ten-course banquet.
But listen: those are hoofbeats
on the frosty autumn air. 

Credit


From The Last Uncle by Linda Pastan, published by W. W. Norton & Company. Copyright © 2002 by Linda Pastan. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Author


Linda Pastan

The author of many collections of poetry, Linda Pastan's book Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998 was nominated for the National Book Award

Date Published: 2002-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/cossacks