SCROLLS

sill
the bottle of water on the sill
of the wind
of the window
of the train

that was baikal
that body of water
in the window
in the frame
in the film

mojna potom

tyehploe, plow, potom shto

luch, nashe luchevaya
bolyezn, myedlena

the fish cost 10 rubles

straw basket, headband

listening to latin
was it really so long ago

dochka, malchik, pervi
sounds more like first
than the word first
sometimes

pervi kacca, dolga vremya

chanson singer on the sidewalk
prison, poverty, the people

according to the formula of the chanson
in Russia, post-socialist

Villons, there is no distinction
in Russian between house and home

malinke chelovek on the sidewalk
tolka chorni later and later now

kajde deen ni doma
na ulitza lubov nachala

a little like that, most
is not a superlative but bridge

so many are singing something
crossing it,

lodka, lavka,
burning garbage on the banks of the river
black bread, kvass,

her hair fell out from the radiation
at the age of six
called a kind of rain
a bald spot even now
shown only to stone

the face is called a turnip or something like that
when it's drunk, the face
and drinking is always a race
to forget where you are

myecta or place, once
we took bread and soup to the children
once (I couldn't do it more than once)
maybe it was their sense of humor
since it was the presence of a foreigner
that made them laugh

drinking soup without spoons
using the bread like a sponge
can I have another one, please?

Kto tam? Tolka ya, nikto. Oh?

You don't know what cynicism is.
Only I know that it sounds like laughter.
Like you laugh at the life you have,
nash gorod radnoi, etc. You wait for the worst
and are surprised when it does not happen
and when it happens, you are satisfied.

What could possibly be worse than this?

You
don't
know
what
it's like
in the villages.

This isn't a village, it's a town, count the statues.
The new statue last year in Chita of the Borderguard . . .
The new statue last year in Vladivostok of the Poet . . .

Getting off the train late February in the cold air
the transport of troops in the back of trucks like
the ages, overlapping, superimposed, and this is
the quiet cold air before

what are we waiting for
what we are all waiting for
for the worst to happen
and it will, there will be war

"forever more" quoth the Raven

No, it was the Major from the U.S. embassy
who showed up at the university last year
and in his eyes there was something crazy
and cold, cold enough for me to write this way
and, yes, I'm looking out the window
and can't mention how far I can see on the phone

without the reminder that it is a phone,
just like in the U.S., where they are monitors.
So I think I might turn into Rozewicz for a while
like Rozewicz or Gunter Eich, maybe Zabolotsky
if he'd been born later than Cape Edition 45

and carry on a conversation into the wiretap
for the Ages, the Poet in the Age of Stalin performed
for online audiences for whom the wires are
the Major, the Embassy, the Treaties, the Wars.

You can buy Che in Russian here for 170 rubles
and somebody put a bullet on my desk for projecting
some words on the film about him in a classroom
in Cleveland. The mistake was writing about it.
It getting time to fall silent. You must not write
what you think because they are listening
to everything you write and say on tape.

The tape they will play for you
before silencing you. So that there's nothing worse
than that eventually the checkpoint will appear
and the U.N. troops will ask for your papers, laughing
"you don't sound like Nikolai Zabolotsky!"

Well, here's a passage from one of his poems:

"The blooded cannons fall silent,
Syntax is not building the right houses.
The world stands in all its clumsy beauty.
The old code of the trees is cast aside,
The battle has shown them a new land.
They discuss, write pieces of prose,
The whole world is paced with clumsy meaning!
The wolf, who has fitted a human face
Over his own scarred head,
Digs out a flute, plays wordlessly thereon
The warlike elephants' first song.

Poetry, having lost the fight,
Stands in its tattered crown.
Mont Blancs of age-old towers have fallen,
Where figures gleamed like centaurs.
Where the sword of the syllogism flashed and blazed,
Tried in the light of pure reason.
And to what end? It lost the battle
To the glory of other turns of phrase. . .

The whole world was used to poetry.
Everything was so comprehensible.
The cavalry stood drawn up,
Each gun was numbered,
While on the standards the word 'Mind'
Nodded to all like a kind of grandparent."

(Translated by Daniel Weissbort,
1971).