Amy Herschleb


Love Letters to Putin



I've switched to the rhythm method & chart my fertility on the Vladimir Putin wall calendar.

My daughter Vlaudia is conceived below a Boyz II Men poster (original lineup) & the governance of a stern but dear leader. She is blonde & blue, well-cheekboned, small but attractive. She will wonder, in later years, how she became so Russian, from whence the accent with two such Southern parents. But not yet. She is the size of a pierogi, her half-brother touches my belly with his bent little finger, and his mother spits on me in the street.

Well, alright. I will not fight you with Socialism, intonazia, or Comrade God. What is invisible does not exist. My leader ordained, speaking down past my kidneys into that blank cavern, and the ancient bears of heredity obeyed.


I got old today--I thought I'd better tell you before you noticed--which is not my usual mode. "How out-of-character," you might remark. I won't tell you where I found the grey. If this is a midlife crisis, at least it is halfway over. At least the frustration will someday end (it has been promised).

I swear it is a jealous heart that thinks it knows best--better than its Leader. I swirl my tea leaves in an Aynsley cup. It's all getting rinsed down the drain anyway.

I love you like someone might have loved Constantine once--the King is in Constantinople and all is right in the world, etc. So many men dislike flippancy and broad gestures, but I am particular, particular, and I can't help an egomaniac's oversight.


Without hope for a letter back, no dear correspondent, dear comrade, dear iron bridge into the abyss. I wish for no obscure accolade nor reciprocation. For whom is love a closed circuit? No fan club presidency, no medal "Most Effusive Non-Native Paeanist."

Dear Leader, whoever said: "I only give what I will get back?" Shouldn't it be like the wind & wolves howling over the steppes? Driving the fearful before it, devouring & rending the resigned.

Then tell me that's not what it's like.


Valentine's Day I find a drunk dead in a snowdrift. I consider it a mark of your favor, to strew such signs in my path and freeze for posterity this postcard. Everything will remain now & perfect: my red nose & blue breath, vodka trickling down the luge of a worn leather topcoat, the cold ruffling the wolverine of his hair.

His flat bruised eyes. My flat bruised eyes. Our mismatched swollen knuckles.

The things we grip most preciously, most painfully, are ground into the callous.