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by Anne-Marie Turza

And what he saw then, he never saw again.

—Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Halfway through that story of white-throated women and suicide by train—halfway, almost exactly—Levin, in love, cannot button his coat. You understand: this is not the story Tolstoy told, or at least, not what Tolstoy told us. The difference: Levin is here, with us, his fingers slipping among the pewter buttons, fastening them crookedly: we see the gaps, those lapses in the thick fabric of the greatcoat, exposing his white shirtfront beneath which we can hear, almost, the? trammeling heart: his fingers slip, he cannot, cannot button his coat. You understand: we must make his hands clumsy, we must delay him. Soon enough, he’ll go breathful and aimless to the street, he’ll see the greyish-blue pigeons . . . and the little loaves of bread, sprinkled with flour, that some invisible hand had put outside a baker’s shop. Somehow, we must keep him here, with us. Levin, new in love. You understand: soon enough, he’ll see what moves him most. A loaf of bread, a pigeon, fluttering its wings in the commonplace, the snow glittering, extraordinary. What he’ll never see again.
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Published in Arc 64: Summer 2010
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