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
when the light
suddenly, with a click,
burns out, an occasion for life –
find it, consciousness, itself. Look,
here it is – the beast
Water of the spruce’s under sun
Torn all at once
the whole sky from the water – such, time,
is your surface.
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
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
I speak out what needs to be said
I hold out love me not
language links and catches
the earlier I
looked like you
a fallen word
speak of the devil and fall
out of your mind
blue is beloe
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,
o, and not your own tail, not even a rose
the sound of being – it was, it was not, – the bridge
Translated by Ainsley Morse from Blue as White (The Book of Margins)
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
* * *
Are you still in the forest?
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
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
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.
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,
the cords underline, all
the real road,
from pole to pole
a strung length of longing, ellipses
of still birds, check-marks
of the flying above ones.
of the reeds by the bridge
in the air,
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:
the rectangular glass
* * *
Opening all of them —
you’re delaying leaving as if
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
And it suddenly comes to you—
late, in vain,
as that poem itself—
Translated from the Russian by the Author
SIX POEMS ON THE THINKING REED
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.
In the dusk,
the windows tremble as a sweep-net
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.
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,
of a sawed-off moon.
The rain falls, “Like a tree,”
and closes the window shut.
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.
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.
The reed is time
and a god’s cane.
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,
14-18 May 2000, New York
Translated from the Russian by Helga Olshvang and Michael Kazmarek
* * *
Through the window is seen
One side, then the next,
Perched on the elm, and the snow
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.
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
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.
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,
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,
Local route, the unknown old woman across
With her berries,
Enveloped in light.
Should I have called out to ask
For all that was?
She won’t hear a thing.
Translated from the Russian by Alexandra Landauer