I drive all the way to Baltimore
for a blind date with a Chekhov scholar.
The tremor in his hands,
the way his sugar rises as he eats
three carrots. His soft-yolk eyes
In the ladies' room,
blink at the uncertain woman
in the mirror, wonder
If you're free to do whatever you want,
why are you doing this?
Back with the diabetic Russian,
distract myself thinking how
sometimes in life (as in Chekhov)
Then wonder, what's this poor guy thinking
and whom might I remind him of --
the profligate widow.
Varya, almost a nun.
Anya the idealist,
soul-starved, grasping whatever poison
is pushed her way --
All of them at once?
Just then he stops pushing carrots
around his plate, says to me:
In Chekhov, the pain is unbearable.
-- Joan E. Bauer
Joan E. Bauer lives and works in Shadyside. Her new book of poetry, which includes this poem, is The Almost Sound of Drowning, just published by Main Street Rag. She reads with poet Jill Khouri at Té Café, 2000 Murray Ave., in Squirrel Hill, at 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 20. Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs every Tuesday at 7 p.m. on independent radio, WYEP 91.3 FM.