Robert Frost in Russia

Tim Kahl

He thought straight talk between two old men
could bring two nations to peace,
a discussion over chess moves in the park,
why the bishop must stand its ground,
how the faithful pawns, released from
their sweet fields, must still imagine their work.
That is why the old poet, bedridden,
father of a suicide, submits himself
to Kruschev’s weight. A pawn marches
across the battle to experience
a persistent ideal turned into threatening form.

What faith in the art of conversation
that it might displace what the press has wrought,
what the men with interests have riled,
and the next year the missile crisis,
the old poet ends his famous lover’s quarrel
with the world. He cut off its rebuttal,
because the world understands talk less.
It reacts to an itch like a dog
that bites its back — constructive
antagonism
, the old poet might have said.

The old curmudgeon berates Kruschev
for the Berlin Wall’s insult. Two farm boys
should have talked about the best soil and
weather for growing apples instead,
but the old poet in the face of power
could not resist his queen to queen’s
bishop six
. Check. Nothing doing.
The king does not fall over. Nothing
is gained, nothing lost. No energy exchange.
Nothing dies with dignity as much as
the straight talk between two old men.