Home » Issues & Poems » Issue Two » A Love Poem

A Love Poem

Derrick Porter

There was no direct route by which I came to write – will continue to write – this series of poems; but an indirect one I stumbled on while reading Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, and Lermontov. Something of their beguiling chemistry infiltrated my own, being not entirely of the mind but also of the heart, culture, folklore, and landscape that fused to create the material for a sub-world in which I wanted to write a story. This story became A Love Poem.

The poems were not conceived in any chronological order but came to me randomly over five years. In the earliest drafts only two or three of the poems appeared as tercets. One or two arrived in block, others in quatrain or couplets. The decision to use the tercet form throughout the series was a recent choice and one I hope most readers will be persuaded, at least for this series, was the right one.

A Love Poem

Marina Begins A New Life


There are too many donkeys in the world Ivan mumbled,

checking yet again the safety of his five roubles, observing

at the end of a short rope, a little island
of sadness he’d love till the end of his days.
Yes…too many donkeys… and fewer roubles.
Yet, if Ivan’s offer was miserable, also welcomed with the
exuberance of one ridding
them self of an ever increasing burden.

Thus the union between Ivan and his donkey began with the
removal of the rope
and she by giving a backward kick

to inform her new master, she’d no intention
of joining him, until feasted for a journey she’d no idea to where.



The Naming of  Marina


Ideas with the scent of  roses

white as the snow on Mount Elbrus

would leap unannounced into Ivan’s head:


Donkey, we must find you a name!

But the creature’s interest was elsewhere

enjoying the fruits of  the forest.


Natalya! the name suddenly

freeing itself  from the back

of  Ivan’s mind: Natalya …Natalya…


But the donkey’s head remained

committed to the one pleasure

pursued since early that morning.



Had she understood and possessed

instead of  callused legs, the arms

and green eyes of  the young


Natalya, she might have placed

those arms around his shoulders

to show she was already in love with him.


But understanding none of  this

knew only that

when the sound resonated


through the sweet grass…Marina…Marina…

her head without compromise

lifted from the forest floor.



While Marina Rests


Natalya cursed as she dropped pegs

into a basket and tightened an over-laundered

head scarf  that had worked itself  free.


What do children remember of  all this…

she sighed as Ivan brought

the last log into the yard, her words


stirring up memories of  their childhood,

a time when he was excluded

from the village games.


Natalya a green eyed goddess

with hair like plaited corn

tied in a rainbow of  trailing ribbons. 


If  you go any slower Ivan

you’ll catch tomorrow’s sunshine…

she’d call after him.


Turning towards the gate

he half  smiled, half  regretted

having to take her fifty kopecks.


Her eyes followed as though

observing the flight of  a young woodpecker

fluttering up onto the cart.


Ivan resisted all temptation to look back, lest

she became aware of  the direction

his thoughts had taken them.



Winter Comes to Marina’s Yard


Behind a filigree of  snow a cockerel

calls from its coop; hens in muted labour

sullen in their chilly ruffs.


Ivan’s coat has slipped from Marina’s back

exposing a mosaic of  crystals; her ears

hung like fragments of  frozen velvet.


Over the hut, at irregular intervals, a spire

of  smoke rises from a makeshift pipe

fed from a wood pile deep below ice.


Through the frosted window Ivan peers out

to the gloom that is Marina, carved

in white marble, calling to her, I’ll build you a shed…


His voice causing the seals across

her eyes to shatter, as first one buried foot

and then another…brings her to his door.



Marina’s Sky


Marina had become the single event

out of  which all the happiness

Ivan had ever experienced blossomed.


When they stood at the edge of  a ravine

he would catch below in the shape of  her ears

a little part of  their love.


Before Marina, the sky was no more

than a slowly rotating roof

that kept him dry or wet in turn.


But now, walking with his friend

in sleeveless shirt or in winter coat,

the sky was a halo of  her making.



Marina Finally Gets Her Wish


On the day the last length of  timber

slotted into place and fresh leaves

covered the floor, Ivan stood apart


to admire the fruit of  his labour,

a task that had taken the entire summer

and in which, Marina, had shown


not a moment’s interest; not even

the fleeting glance she gave to the robin

or the blackbird straining


to pull worms from the sodden earth.

Only slowly did her curiosity

begin to show. Her eyes –


attendant to the swelling buds

on the apple and cherry trees

and later the rustling of  the white


and pink blossom that heralds

the sweetness she believed her tongue

alone was created for –


only then, on that final day, did they

explore the contours of  this

majestic object towards which


she felt an instant kinship.

And had she been asked to specify

her interest, she would have said


If  my master was to create anything

so beautiful for me, this is exactly how

I would ask him to build me a shed.



Marina Listens to Ivan Addressing the Stars


What god created you? Was it

the red heart of  Christ? A command

of  Allah?  The will of  the Buddha

to adorn his temple? Ivan asked,

yet incomprehensible of  gods

who continued to tear mankind apart.


From the fruit of  the tree – under which

Marina stood with a ring of  campions

around her neck – a star dropped


into the grass anchoring Ivan’s thoughts

to the realization he was in the presence

of  the one true deity.



Marina Says Goodbye to Ivan


One morning Ivan discovered

the loss of  his most precious possession,

and one he could never replace.


Five days it took to dig a hole

large enough to contain it.

Then, gently as he could, he pulled


on the rope he had attached

to the top of  Marina’s hind legs,

coaxing her to try harder…


Come Marina, a little less stubbiness.

Until grim from the sweat of  grief,

they reached her resting place.


Under the swaying blossom

of  her favourite tree – and gently

as what remaining strength allowed –

he watched each part of  his beloved Marina

disappear from the heaven

she had created for them both.


Nor in the ensuing seasons could he

pass this spot without calling

And good morning to you also Marina.


And this is where our journey ends.

For whatever time was left to Ivan

the following lines are the only account.



Natalya Remembers Ivan


It was general knowledge Ivan

had little sense worth keeping; yet he kept it

all the same for it was all he had.


His only desire was that one day

he’d find a wife who’d love him more

than he had wit to imagine.


But if  not a wife…why not a donkey

who would accompany him

along the spine of  the Caucasus?


Truth was he never left the province

of  his birth, and no woman ever

spoke to him a sentence longer than


“Good morning to you also Ivan,”

or “Thank you Ivan, but I’ll not be going

in your direction after all…”


So he turned to his one friend, Nature

to escape the taunts of  the villagers

who called his loneliness The madness of  Ivan.


On the morning of  his final birthday,

his two disappointments were

that no woman had ever loved him


and that his only friend, Marina,

for all her wisdom, never knew

she had the voice of  an angel.

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