“I used to believe that there was a green stick,
buried on the edge of a ravine . . . on which
words were carved that would destroy all the
evil in the hearts of men and bring them
” Leo Tolstoy
When he was old, pate bald, skin sere.
Back humbled as the turtle’s
For all his prayer.
He remembered John the Baptist leapt
After locusts for his food;
That his wife had begged for ice cream.
Cried for the hundred leaping tongues,
The flame of chandelier in their Moscow home;
That his children once caught
at the skirts of gnomic priests.
Constructed paper domes,
and kissed the ikons whose almond-eyes
Fixed not on them but on God’s throne;
That in the evening, reading,
His wife hung words out
like clothes upon a line;
That King Lear made him anxious.
Lev Tolstoi thumped his walking stick
Upon the path, moved on.
His thought fled to the cobbler’s trade.
To a green stick still buried in a glade.
To the trains that run east and west.