National Poetry Month: Elina Petrova

Tonight please enjoy the poem “Waltz” by Elina Petrova, a rhythmically swaying meditation of pin-sharp imagery and lilting sound.


After your birthday dinner, you said life
didn’t turn out the way you wanted.
Then, who wanted the way it turned out?
If no one, why did it turn out that way?
I wanted a son, summers in a fishermen’s
village, and an endless book where seagulls
would dispute the catch of memories
until silence dims the coral ashes of a shore
and other planets rise — with methane rivers
that cleave their blue craggy surfaces
and geyser vapors that form into frozen particles
the size of our house, rotate on a carousel
of orbital rings, gravitational ripples.
At night I hear not only cicadas and alarms
from distant parking lots, but the silence
whose interpreting is my gift on Earth.
I enter it — a swimmer, who used to long
for a lonely blue lap, a lover who’s learned
thousands of paths to almost unsharable joy,
quiet ratios of musica universalis.

With you we are music. For you I dye
my nickel hair black and fit into jeans I wore
at seventeen, when — on foggy November stops —
I waited for the lighted bus to take me uptown.
There, after a day of threading water pipes
at a factory, I would watch couples promenade
along dark boulevards, wrought banisters
run staircases as musical staves. Elegant
bookshelves and paintings behind high
windows made me think of lives that turned out
the way they wanted — clusters of grapes
to minuets by Rameau. I cupped my hands
to light a cigarette in the drizzle of an emptying
boulevard and drifted into idle reveries like those
about couples waltzing at a candlelit Viennese
Ball, and my grandparents who never danced,
but survived the famine together.
Frosted silence congealed puddles, creased
my movements when I struck a match. Planets
rotated, looking down at the insignificance
of any human story, but — in many years —
when I met you, something in their equations
changed, the music in a darkened
concert hall stopped being an oboe solo
under a solitary spotlight. Gentle melodies
wove into a bassline with a steady heartbeat,
waltzed in a warming silence the way
I wanted, the way it turned out.


Until 2007 Elina Petrova lived in Ukraine and worked in engineering management. She published two poetry books in English (Aching Miracle, 2015, and Desert Candles, 2019) and one in her native Russian language. Elina’s poems have appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, Texas Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Southwestern American Literature, Porter House Review, California Quarterly, FreeFall (Canada), Ocotillo Review, Poetry of the American Southwest series, Wicked Wit (Runner-Up Award for Public Poetry), and numerous anthologies. Find her online at her poetry website.

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