A Short Digression While Discussing a Tolstoy Story (Why I Love Siobhán)

by Mark Chmiel

At McGurks I asked Siobhán, “Did I ever tell you about the ‘Meanwhiles?’”

“I don’t think so.”

“Back in the days and nights
When The Book of Mev wasn’t The Book of Mev
(I was calling it The Holy Contour of Life)
I asked an acquaintance
A published writer
If he would read the manuscript
And give me some of his seasoned advice

He was generous with his time
As well as his enthusiasm
His one piece of constructive advice was
‘Get rid of all those chapters entitled
Meanwhile Elsewhere in the World!!!’

‘How come?’ I asked curiously

He blurted out glowingly
‘They were total distractions!
All I was interested in was the love story!’”

Siobhán asked, “Seriously?
But the ‘meanwhiles’ are essential!
The struggle is one, right?
That story depends on the meanwhiles
Our lives inter-are with the meanwhiles
The meanwhiles matter! It’s just like in The Death of Ivan Ilyich:
It was all done with clean hands, in clean shirts,
with French words, and above all in the highest society,
consequently with the approval of highly placed people.’”

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