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Reading Anna Karenina

In middle age Tolstoy apprenticed himself

to a boot maker. He labored at learning

the skills of that trade. Sometimes his fingers

bled onto the leather as he punched the awl

or drew the needle in the outline of a foot.

Blisters, he knew, are holier than ink stains.

The boots were ugly and they pinched,

Sonya complained, and she refused to wear them.

Yet she copied Karenina by hand

how many times? It was his words she loved,

how he formed souls out of air. Just breath.

She preferred the page's purity to his

restless hands. If he were a man made only

of words she'd give her whole self to him.

Karina Borowicz

The Southern Review

Winter 2014

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