Susan Tepper – Meditations on dear Petrov
Set in 19th Century Russia during a time of war
I left the bread on the window ledge and it was gone by morning. As were you, dear Petrov. Creeping out early. Before the bird trills. Assuming I wouldn’t hear you on the creaky stairs. I hear everything. Every move of the bat’s wings as they greet dawn in the attic. The mice and rats that live inside the walls of this house. Rabbits under the floor where the kitchen has no cellar. The scramble of life. I can’t begin to imagine. I would have liked you to kiss me before heading off to battle. I don’t carry the same assurance that swirls you like pipe smoke. I have this single house and one horse. The hours and days pass surreptitiously. The way you choose to leave me each time. What is the honor in leaving without a single kiss. Does a kiss weaken a soldier in heart and mind. If that is the case, dear Petrov, then I forgive you. I will forgive your leavings and your forgetfulness about returns. I will forgive the letters I send that go unsung. All the things I need that seem to slip past. I will forgive them if they are part of your weaponry. As you once said about war it is the sharp eye and lack of conscience that makes a good soldier. So, dear Petrov. Once again, in anticipation of seeing you, I forgive.
Ghosts drip from trees in the white birch forest. I tremble upon entering this dark enclave. Father are you resurrected. So long ago you were buried in this ground. The sun has forsaken. Does it take a century to rise. I work the dough and it rises over night. Perhaps the soul is the yeast of the bread. It is almost Easter. I will place whole eggs into the top crust. Will that make a child. Is the soul the yeast of the bread I ask but you are heavy in the chair. Nearly drowsing. Is the soul my own loneliness. Just mine. The hunger that rinds my belly. Dear Petrov I have nowhere to turn. You leave for many fortnights as if it were a mere matter of weeks. We never speak about the lost child. We speak of little now. The sun rising and setting. Rain that fills the cellars during a wet spring. The trouble with the walls turning to moss. An overcooked lamb. We sup and drink and when you enter me I become more lost. You plunder as if divining for water. I am a desert flung mistakenly into this cold land. Barren. You laugh calling it an impossible paradox. I was little schooled. But those words clear as the bells tolling at midnight. Bringing some hope of a new day. Not much else.
My horse has wandered away. I halted our walk to slide off his back to pick bluebells. Along the road slope. Bright bunches of them. Exceptionally blue. Anticipating your arrival, dear Petrov, to make the house appear radiant. It is not a wandering horse. I tell myself he will eventually come home. A stallion he is bound to wander. Suppose he finds lust too difficult to deny. We are of two bodies and one heart. Horse and Mistress. Claimed. Is my heart too small and weak to hold attention. I have done everything in my capacity. Fresh hay when there is hay to be had. The sharing of my own meager foodstuffs. Clinging to his neck on the bitter nights. Astride him. Sharing our body warmth. Putting down my hand for the nuzzle. What more is there to be done. I am a small woman and he is a large horse. Unsuitable some would say. But a large horse does better in this treacherous land. A small horse having less chance. I would not survive without my horse. I am despondent. You will come home and accuse me of losing a good horse. I don’t think I could forgive myself, dear Petrov. You will be correct. I have lost a good horse. I am devalued. I will not be able to meet your eyes. Stony.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Beauty is one of those intangibles that seems to shape shift from person to person and moment to moment. Some find beauty in perfection, while for me, beauty can present as a rotted tree trunk, a fence missing slats in exchange for honeysuckle, an old house gone to wrack and ruin. I look into things that might have once been considered beautiful, seeing them with a fresh perspective, at the possibilities, as they travel through what is known as time.
Susan Tepper has been writing for twenty years. Prior to this, she worked as an actress, singer, flight attendant, TV Producer, marketing manager, interior decorator, rescue worker and more. Tepper is the author of six published books of fiction and poetry. Currently, her seventh book, a novel, is under consideration. Tepper was 7th place winner in the Zoetrope contest for the Novel, 2006, and Second Place Winner for story/South Million Writers Award in 2014. Additionally she’s received nine Pushcart Nominations, and a Pulitzer Prize Nomination for her epistolary novel What May Have Been. FIZZ, her reading series at KGB Bar, NYC, is sporadically ongoing these past eight years. More at: susantepper.com.