Back to Issue Eleven.

Nights of Zhivago



for my mother

I carry your loneliness inside me like a horse, one

of those trotters from Zhivago, a movie
                      you saw three nights running
          when I was young

and you were young and there was still
                        a future
           in Super Panavision.

You loved the scalar immensity, Sharif’s

Egyptian eyes burning white Russian
                        in a dream
           of perfect marriage.

Who could blame you? Husband in another town,
                        setting up
           the next move, home

only weekends. The American Dream:

ranch house with leaky basement,
                        sump pump
           like an artificial heart on a stem.

Children: burning out their lives like orphans.
                        Night 1: you bought us
           popcorn so we would quiet

and the gray of the screen


could become the gray of your mind
           in fur and pink: skeletal Chaplin.

She had your body, wisp
                        of a girl
           with girlish hips, but awash

in glamour, wealth. She wins

Zhivago it seems. You go a second time
                        to be certain.
           Take a friend

a blond like Lara,
                        whose husband—
           the rumor went—embezzled,

slept around, slapped

her now and then. I think it helped,
                      Night 2,
           with the brute,

Victor Ipolitovich Komarovsky,
                      and Lara’s
           deeper, truer

loneliness. Shape of a woman

like the shape of a horse.
           put aside wet. You hated

Steiger forever after that. Begrudged
           even the Oscar. Was he


the Husband?

The man from across the street?
                      Our father?
           The Zhivago children the four

snot-nosed kids you left at home—
                      with whom?—
           me? When you returned, a glass

was broken, we were bloodied,

fighting. You threatened to leave—
                      I threw you
           the keys—you stayed.

Night 3: you went alone.
           into that slow section—


Lara helping Zhivago—

you, too, were a nurse. They
           in love, beautifully,

without touching. Mend
                      and stitch
           the wounded.

And then the horse again—

Varykino, Yuriatin. Zhivago
           wife to lover,

his passion abducted, con-
           His trudging back in snow.

Varykino again. Lara


again. It’s really a house in Spain
                      filled with beeswax,
           the cold an illusion, Hollywood lighting

bathing Christie’s blue eyes (yours
                      were brown)
           as Christie as Lara lounged,

as you as Lara lounged, while

Zhivago penned the poems. To the adored.
                      He has his back
           to her—a candle rages—

she is sleeping. I watch it three nights
           before I understand the scene.

Then l know—it is you who is awake—

by a strange alchemy—you as Zhivago—
                      the un-adored,
           the un-beloved, become the lover.

The unending monologues when I was home
                      explain it,
           the weekly phone calls,


word and word and word,

when I moved away, the tapes
                      of your singing—at church,
           with Streisand—the letters

with profiles of Indian doctors you loved,
                      their skin
           as dark as Sharif’s

but with sharper knives. How you

let them cut you again and again,
                      scalpel as poem
           and dear heart, are you breathing,

what can I do to ease the pain?
                      40 years of this.
           A staggering array of scars and drugs.

Ankle, knee, heart, gut.

The writings, the tapes, the “poems”— 
                      Dolores’s poems—
           I stored in a box until—

because I am your coltish son—I trashed. 
                      For which
           I am broken-hearted, late adoring, yours

after all, sentenced to a few crude scenes.


Dennis Hinrichsen’s most recent works are Skin Music, co-winner of the 2014 Michael Waters Poetry Prize from Southern Indiana Review Press, and Electrocution, A Partial History, winner of the Rachel Wetzsteon Chapbook Prize from Map Literary: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and Art. Both will appear in 2015. His previous books include Rip-tooth (2010 Tampa Poetry Prize) and Kurosawa’s Dog (2008 FIELD Poetry Prize). An earlier work, Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights, received the 1999 Akron Poetry Prize. New poems appear in the anthologies Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in PoetryNew Poetry From the Midwest 2014Clash by Night (an anthology inspired by The Clash’s London Calling) and Best of the Net 2014.