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.
The Southern Review