To Platonov...

They said you liked simple people
And complicated machines.
They said that trains had sung
Your lullabies for you and that
You were afraid of women,
Who could not think…or
Were not enough manly.

Your hands…Your hands were so
Manly. So Soviet that somehow I felt
I could have seen you –
Extending one’s
Gaze just a few decades is not that
Though a hardship.

You seem too close. As if we were
Not by six degrees but two decrees of

Your eyes after all belied your hands.

Those belonged to a poet
And not a proletariat
(though an intelligent one,
as they described you).

It’s very strange this chemistry
Through ages.
Sages speaking to me through a tapestry

Of epiphanic gages
That is now my mind
Slipping away
Before I could reply.

But I will say this much:

I like simple machines
And complicated people.


photo of the author taken by Elina Akselrud

Poet’s Note

“To Platonov” is dedicated to the Russian poet, playwright, and philosopher Andrey Platonov, a favorite of Hemingway’s. I wrote it in 2013 after watching a documentary on Platonov to understand why a friend would associate me with Platonov and his somewhat romantic perception of life and nature. In 2020, this poem was shared by my advisor Caryl Emerson at Platonov reading group at Princeton University, where it was composed.