Stick-Breaker and the Hare

I. – 1942

Tania Chernova says,
They are only sticks.
Break them.
She pulls the trigger
and another brown stick
snaps.
She is only nineteen,
but she has broken
twenty-four sticks already,
and will break fifty-three
more before this war ends.
Someone said, She is not even Russian;
Someone said, She is a Yankee,
but she could be anything,
so long as she keeps breaking
these German sticks.

II. – 1945

No wonder Zaitsev loves her.
Only another sniper could catch
the Hare’s heart in
crosshairs. That girl
pins him in her sights
and he pins her
in his and he carries her
when a landmine
blows any dreams
of motherhood out
of her maybe-Russian
hips. The Hare has
sticks to break for her
and when she wakes,
he is gone.
Someone said, the war is over.
Someone said, Vassili Zaitsev is dead.

There are tears and bandages and
maybe-Russian children
never to be born.
Move on.
There are sticks to break.

III. – 1969

The reporter sips his tea, says,
Ms. Chernova,
Vassili Zaitsev told me of you.
The name is a bullet,
aimed, fired, welcomed
home.
Tania says,
Vassili Zaitsev is dead.
The reporter shakes his head.
Vassili Zaitsev is not.
Someone said, Vassili is married
Someone said, Vassili has three children.
The vulture sips his tea, leans close:
He never came looking for you?

IV. – 1945

The pretty nurse says,
I’m sorry,
Lieutenant Zaitsev,
but there’s no record
of a Tania Chernova
at this hospital.
Someone said she might
have been shipped
elsewhere.
Someone said she might
be dead.
We just don’t know.

This poem © Gabriel Gadfly. Published March 29th, 2010.