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    FIVE POEMS
    Modern Poetry in Translation Magazine

     

    Can’t See Where We Are…

    Can’t see where we are, who you are – can’t see.
    An alternating current
    squeezes the inward sides of the body, the walls, the mainlines,
    but now we’re the ones who use legs and feet and tongues and backs
    to make a beast,
    we knew it would come to be this dark.
    When out of the sleeves, the hats,
    the bottlenecks, the boots and folds
    comes tumbling, naked,
    weeping toward the world – a mortal,
    dawning and smelling of rubbing alcohol
    this world, clanking in time
    to the shudders and body’ s attempts to fall
    into body,
    when the light
    suddenly, with a click,
    burns out, an occasion for life –
    find it, consciousness, itself. Look,
    here it is – the beast
    in question.

     

    Logs

    Water of the spruce’s under sun
    grey bark,
    under wind.
    Torn all at once
    the whole sky from the water – such, time,
    is your surface.
    Adhesive base.
    The crackle of water. The bark
    of shining pines, boulders, crows.

     

    A Fish Plunged, a Man Died…

    A fish plunged, a man died.
    The needle the tack
    steering down.
    From inside-out and above
    non-being a seam stretched –
    – a burn
    along the birthing mother’s belly and a whistle
    on the exhale – on the inh…
    faltering. Out of
    you what was dragged out by the gills in passing
    will rise again – alive.
    Will go on apart.

     

    with its consonants and non-consenters…

    with its consonants and nonconsenters speech goes off the rails, called
    to a strange land to speak
    in hard words
    words’
    skins
    cover sense
    I speak out what needs to be said
    I hold out love me not
    a plea
    language links and catches
    the earlier I
    looked like you
    in English
    a fallen word
    speak of the devil and fall
    out of your mind
    blue is beloe
    wavering white

     

    O, I…

    O, I,
    who know no words and all
    amok, the time to say it has come, I,
    listen: who we are, who appear to be one,
    to the ones looking back askance, hero to hero.
    I like any other,
    taking myself by the elbows,
    I do a little dance, here I take the subway
    and take water into my mouth – a pledge
    of a word so unspeakable – I go mute.
    I, whose hiding place to track from –
    you won’t keep up, knee to knee,
    hair to hair, spitting image of a pomegranate
    inserting itself inside – wound into wound,
    to a T like how the tongue, and sounds, roared
    in glossolalia, I, out from the hitch bar
    they danced the word into the crack.
    To say that out loud – didn’t work.
    No bird flutters from the breast,
    no gesture,
    o, and not your own tail, not even a rose
    the sound of being – it was, it was not, – the bridge
    curving back.

    Translated by Ainsley Morse from Blue as White (The Book of Margins)

     

    THREE POEMS
    The Plume Anthology of Poetry

     

    * * *

    Get out alive – spine, spleen, whole
    fistfuls – away!— of my crimson,
    partly white (wild)
    shoulders, elbows, heaping fistfuls of
    passion, how do I run all this out of town,
    taking the daily proceeds of the body,
    hightail it out of here, so as
    to keep and to hold
    my mouth shot
    fasten the knee-cap cups
    and the tear globules tethering inside,
    ears, shins, guts,
    a chiming heart with a corpuscle tongue,
    how do I find the door-knob to the door
    marked entrance/exit?

     

    * * *

    Are you still in the forest?
    Twilight curls,
    the porcelain surface of the pond congeals,
    the wrapped fishes swim all in a row,
    dark water in a bottle, sticks of butter,
    elated flies that crowd the evening lamp,
    all granted simple privilege to be
    around you,
    any cashier can touch your hand,
    counting off change…

     

    * * *

    With all my might I try not to see
    how you peer out of all
    windows and leave through all doors
    run down to meet me down all stairs
    I turn around –you’re there
    parceled out displayed on plates
    sliding yourself into my palm knife-like
    driving by in various cars
    weighing my dry goods at the counter
    pouring me out of all bottles
    drinking me in gulping
    hiding me in your fist
    shoving me into your pockets not realizing I’m not myself, nor my own
    with all my might I’m trying to fall through the twined radiance,
    a twofold neither-you-nor-me.

    Translated by Dana Golin from Blue as White (The Book of Margins)

     

    * * *

    I walked around the lake so many times,
    it turned into the whirl of sand.
    I walked by the same willow tree so many times,
    it turned into the spindle horn.
    I saw one face so many times,
    I  see it no more , I only know
    It is turning now to see me back.

     

    * * *

    In the language of yours
    city river is gender-less, bleak
    continuous fact.
    floating past our windows.
    arm-less crowd moves, fish like,in scales.
    I remember the crowd just like this
    filling up the tv box with grainy hurrays
    every May first.

    Therefore,
    looking upon waves and
    Barges and birds,
    I am reminded of my thirst, of roomy
    life ahead, as I felt it back then,
    watching blurry parades,
    unaware of myself as a child or a woman.

     

    * * *

    Pray to a tree, from the window, while it is light
    still, pray to its linden cloud, its leaves,
    tangled crowns, diadems, branches. Pray
    to the brown rivers of hair, cracks of its sleepy palms,
    to the faces of it, round- eyed, scarred,
    bird-like faces, pray to its apron, the sap,
    the old shoulders, sheltering the sparrows, the shade,
    the torn parasol, pray to all
    of its shivering candles, that spill the wax
    on its knees, to the stained glass of skies,
    the cupola, the dim of its hollow, pray to the green
    velvet, the bindings of Bibles, the psalms and hymns,
    left on the ground to lie by the roots,
    since the autumn, pray to the worn out gold
    around the pages, turned by the wind right now.
    Move your lips, whisper, repeat after him.

     

    * * *

    Monologues of fields,
    and, from time to time
    the Capital “I” of a tree,
    interrupting
    the cords underline, all
    along
    the real road,
    from pole to pole
    a strung length of longing, ellipses
    of still birds, check-marks
    of the flying above ones.
    Italics
    of the reeds by the bridge
    in the air,
    shedding laughter.
    So,
    you try sitting face forward
    and the time blows
    away, face after face of yours
    through the half-open sky.
    Then you sit facing backwards:
    condensing within
    the rectangular glass
    freezing still

     

    * * *

    Almost late.
    Opening all of them —
    cabinets, drawers,
    you’re delaying leaving as if
    after you
    walks someone silent, crying.
    Whomever it is, the ghost
    won’t reveal itself, it will not
    find you the second glove, nor will it
    roll out the dusty pencil
    that once was lost
    in a fight with a rhyme for her name:
    the poem never made it.
    Aimlessly looking through papers,
    beginning to be
    late, on top of the bed in a heavy coat,
    you are sitting, smoking the eighth
    last cigarette. The ninth.
    Turning your eyes
    from the mirror, meanwhile imagining well
    the remaining reflection there among the things
    that were ceded to the past: fading belongings,
    book piles, taken-off clothes,
    all the despised objects, still praying for you.
    Leaving them, leaving at last,
    you step out,
    letting the cold
    in, lock the front door lock
    twice.
    And it suddenly comes to you—
    late, in vain,
    as that poem itself—
    the rhyme.

    Translated from the Russian by the Author

     

    SIX POEMS ON THE THINKING REED

    I

    Long inviolable quiet.
    Houses along the lake. Thus
    old age appeared to the reed. And only by
    its own rustling does it awaken,
    lightly, without torment so that
    it loses, forgets itself again.
    Not tiring, blood
    flows down its back,
    warmed by a slanting light.
    No thought of the past, no sorrow, no fear of crackling.
    This is how the reed appears
    to the man who stands by the window cracked open.
    A breath held
    for an instant by time.

    II

    In the dusk,
    the windows tremble as a sweep-net
    does,
    letting the light in,
    along with drafts and flies. The catch
    will be shared by dishes
    and swatting palms.
    But the reed remains.

    A border, whose markings upon the lake, whose lines,
    cannot be crossed by a glance,
    by the sole of a fisherman, by
    either the night or thoughts of it.

    Out comes the reed
    from the title wave.
    The trace of numbers along the blade
    of travels, pages, spiders’ steps, years
    spent by the lake,
    winters spent by the window with tea …

    The ray is the reed-
    the very same light, that grows
    with the quickness of grief.

    III

    He blocks the night of the room from the night outside.
    In the midst of a frame
    A collar shines dimly. He sees:
    Crooked edges of bushes,
    the cut
    of a sawed-off moon.
    The rain falls, “Like a tree,”
    he thinks,
    and closes the window shut.

    IV

    Circles left by the rain
    The turning compass will draw
    clouds, lake, thunder
    Then, changing angle –
    Halos of moons
    the circumference of the stem
    at the sand.
    where the roots
    over a rock are spread.
    The rain will be over soon.
    Soaring upwards, the heron.

    V

    If you,
    peering into your own face in the morning,
    become convinced that old age has come,
    that your wrinkles repeat those of the lake’s water,
    that around your mouth the grass has sprouted,
    and your weariness,
    pounding the temple from within,
    is akin to the one that moves the cloud, the slope
    of the chin, gray as sand, being shut,
    preserves the stillness, after the word had passed.
    In the mirror you see yourself and the archway
    into the room, timid crowd of things
    crouching, leaning toward
    one another, as if they are trying to fit
    in the picture. And all the cracks
    on the glass, on the skin of the forehead, next to your eyes,
    give the mirror the look of a still-life.
    They will become the same:
    the window, the mirror, the lake, your portrait,
    cracked in the middle.

    VI

    The reed is time
    and a god’s cane.
    fishes’
    tower, heron’s foot on the scepter,
    staff of a banner of skies.
    The reed is a backbone.
    The spine of the lake.
    Knitting needle stuck in a ball of yarn. Sheer
    lightning rod, fishing pole, fixed
    candle, bookmark between
    the waves of a quiet book.
    Yellow stitch on the back of a cape,
    the spear held high by a great
    horseman, ready to smite,
    it’s the rope of a bell, the stretch
    between the quiet and its ring.
    The reed is you,
    The last thought,
    leaving hope.

    14-18 May 2000, New York

    Translated from the Russian by Helga Olshvang and Michael Kazmarek

     

    * * *

    Interior. Evening.
    Through the window is seen
    One side, then the next,
    The bullfinch
    Perched on the elm, and the snow
    Floating up
    As a lasting hymn.

     

    * * *

    Hold on to the rail
    The way the old man holds
    His own hand.
    The way the dimming lamp
    Is held by the coal miner, descending.
    The way a child holds a stuffed paw
    And the fool clings to his petty truth
    As a hammock to its tree trunk.

    Hold On.
    The subway makes equal
    Those awake and dormant
    Beggars and wanderers
    Lovers and witnesses, all
    Strangers in rows,
    And the dead
    Earnestly staring back
    From their trembling void.

     

    * * *

    When my eyes grow accustomed to death, there,
    As in a dark room,
    I will determine by the contours of the shadows
    Familiar objects, east and west,
    And down my neck will roll
    As fear under the helmet of the deep-diver
    The ocean.

    There, in the enormous trap,
    Flooded to the ceiling,
    I will bestow my wordless praise to fate
    For its unceasing plots
    Which I do not deserve.

     

    KOLOMENSKOYE BOUND

    Across from me, with half-closed lids,
    Hands folded, a tin bucket,
    Raspberries under a cheesecloth,
    The subway begins to move with her.

    The train departs
    And all of her longings become
    Lost from sight, fulfilled.
    In childhood – sugar,
    In youth – an officer,
    A dress, more plywood,
    An added room,
    With buttons down the back,
    A fur coat, keeping her parents nearby,
    Keeping warm.
    A test pilot sounded better than
    A deadbeat and so she answered,
    Time after time to her son,
    Until one day,
    She believed it herself.
    Coming of age:
    Ashes remained of the home,
    Name on stone – of her son.
    He flew off to visit and stayed.
    Both pilots are waving
    To me, to her.

    Slowing, the train,
    Entering midday,
    Roars.
    Local route, the unknown old woman across
    With her berries,
    Enveloped in light.
    Should I have called out to ask
    Her forgiveness
    For all that was?
    She dozes,
    She won’t hear a thing.

    Translated from the Russian by Alexandra Landauer