- Dispatches From The Vanishing World - http://www.dispatchesfromthevanishingworld.com -

a quietly masterful and thoroughly beguiling poem

by louis simpson


Once, some people were visiting Chekhov.

While they made remarks about his genius

the Master fidgeted. Finally

he said, ‘Do you like chocolates?’

They were astonished, and silent.

He repeated the question

whereupon one lady plucked up her courage

and murmured shyly, ‘Yes.’

‘Tell me,’ he said, leaning forward,

light glinting from his spectacles,

‘what kind? The light, sweet chocolate

or the dark, bitter kind?’

The conversation became general.

They spoke of cherry centres,

of almonds and Brazil nuts.

Losing their inhibitions they interrupted one another.

For people may not know what they think

about politics in the Balkans,

or the vexed question of men and women,

but everyone has a definite opinion

about the flavour of shredded coconut.

Finally someone spoke of chocolates filled with liqueur,

and everyone, even the author of Uncle Vanya

was at a loss for words.

When they were leaving he stood by the door

and took their hands.

In the coach returning to Petersburg

they agreed that it had been a most

unusual conversation.