Painting in the Birch Field
BY KONSTANTIN KULAKOV
Grandpa wears white slippers. He is in heaven,
but of course, heaven is a place: there are
trees, birds, moonlight. He stands alone among
mechanical birches with an easel and paints.
It is a Russian heaven. As always, he is doing exactly what
he said he would: painting en plein air, except it is night
and grandma’s memory is under snows of Zaoksky.
Petya and Pavlik are hiding behind a narrow birch, eyeing
grandpa with their little mouths open. They are adults,
but of course, in the dream, they have the bodies
of children. They are waiting to see what grandpa
will do next and if he will praise them. Misha spent
all morning with grandpa. He is a boy, too, handing
him paints, and they are talking about bogochelovechestvo.
A wind circles through the field. Everybody knows
the dream will soon be over. We know wolves
tear at grandma and the worn silks of her skin.
And too soon, exactly like a helium balloon,
grandpa’s slippers lift from the ground. He begins
to ascend, slowly. And Pavel and Petya are in horror:
they know grandpa holds regrets he never named. This time,
they will not let him leave. They run to him, but they are
too frightened to touch him. Misha reaches for his leg.
They beg him to stay. They say it’s not about them
and their penises; it is about mama, Lina, Masha, and Alyonka.
Where are the women? Can they fill his slippers?
But grandpa doesn’t move or speak. He doesn’t even
look down. He is peaceful, smiling, facing the horizon.
Misha notices that his weight won’t keep grandpa down.
That if he holds on to him, he will go up too. The moon is
reflecting in their child eyes. Bread crumbs cling from
Petya’s mouth. His hair dances in the wind.
Misha lets him go. Grandpa’s mannequin body continues
to rise until his white slippers are two dots in a cloud.