Polina Barskova

from “The Forgiver”


mounds of snow kept growing until they turned into white chickens. One shook itself off and turned out to be a tiny drunk holding a plastic bag. Sticking out of the bag was a geranium.

The drunk walked right up to the girl and stared into her face. This face, dripping wet, was made up as if to be visible to nearsighted patrons in the gallery of an opera house: enormous eyebrows, enormous lips, drooping dog eyes exaggerated by greasy black shadows. “You warm enough, honey? Waiting for your sweetheart, are you?” “Can I have some matches.” “My wife kicked me out tonight. Quite a story, let me tell you.” He belched and then whispered in a scary monotone, looking into nowhere: “Behold…

Behold: the hawk prepares his strength:
Now with beat of wounded wing,
He’ll swoop down, soundless, on the field
To drink his fill of living blood.

“Ha,“ she laughed, almost not surprised, “It’s a real Greek chorus. May I have some matches? Would you please be so kind? Would you by any chance happen to have some?“

It was clear Father Frost would be moved only by excess politeness.

After three hours in the snow her matchbook had gone limp.

“Sorry, no, but take this flower.“ Distracted, obedient, she grasped the bag filled with snow and walked off.

From the right, out of the bright, turbulent sky, one of Klodt’s famous horses bore down on her, rearing its tensed body but already prepared to submit, malevolent.