CARDINAL POINTS: THE CURRENT ISSUE
Svetlana Bodrunova
CITIZENS AND OTHER POEMS

Print versionSTOSVET PUBLISHING HOUSE
Svetlana Bodrunova
* * * (apples sleep)

                                        to Mikhail Aizenberg and Jim Kates,
                                        with best wishes to their book


Head to head apples sleep in the deep grass,
let them rest in peace.
The morning is getting lighter, caressed across
by the standing rays.

Look how sleepy and pleased are the turning faces of trees.

Are we turning our faces to where from emptiness streams,
the trees ask themselves,
opening their hands,
dropping what they possess,
disengaging from their dreams,
losing us strays.

Apple Brother, go find the other, another head to cling to,
to die close to,
Oh how ultimate are the trees in their full-hearted blossom,
how harsh is the light through their sleeves, smell from their bosoms,
let them never remember us lying here where from the morning grows,
in the deep deep grass, just like dust and earth.


* * * (grapes)

rosehips for some, and for others, grapes.
remember nothing, forgiving always.
no love at all, no evil to be found:
not the jasmine's bloom, nor how life was sprung,

not the garden's moans, nor the way light fell,
how the grasses crept up the trellis fence,
how the vine flowed over the edge of the wall -
what I tell the vine, I will keep from the grass.

but I'll tell the grass: here the petals lie
with the sesame seeds and the hazelnut.
what the earth will take, she will not give up,
and this is not love, and it's no sin at all.

to the vine I'll not speak: dive over the edge,
wrap around the quince by the paradise road.
have you rosehip, bloomless, or barren flower?
stuff with quince your wilted mouth.

Who needs grapes? on the edge, on the vine,
it forgives our sins, till it's gone, gone wrong.
don't remember a thing, but I know the signs -
like a little sprout 'bout a whisker long.

of the pardoning vine, you shall not eat,
no such thing as love - always on the ready,
pour it into roots, swaddle it in reeds,
the timid vinegar, the gardens' petals.

                                        Translated by Matvei Yankelevich


From "This Spring's Letters"

sure, they said, it's the wind - that happens -
and up to now they've kept saying (up to now the living)
that's it, they said-so, starts up, whistles, hoots,
whips, stings, becomes numb, turns blue -
like that, they said-so, okay, that's what air is,
precisely it, which is so scary -
don't breathe about anything else, c'mon,
i mean now, your defenses all gone,
all nerves now, lurching and losing -
growing old in the wind you go cruising
through despite the bad luck that comes of it
and your life plucked away bit by bit -
infinity hides in the holes in a canvas -
the visible world is multisemantic,
as if words come apart, jigsaw pieces
flying down to your feet and lying there useless -
and fall wasn't autumn and march was all august,
and a shivering hand holds a dumb, shrinking logos -
sunlight, a word skin, some rustling stucco,
a tale changes the skin - it's hot, so
it asks for the cold to come back, like things were before -
so i'm posing, pretending, lying, modeling, adorning
myself and sticking on patches with spit and with gum -
reality, don't lose your leaves; eternity, cover -
enough already, but by no means for me -
no, I'm told - okay, it's the wind, the wind,
it's spring's coming-that happens -
invisible, holy, you head out to april -
if only the grief were enough, or there were enough wind,
pure light, unconsciusness - a real test.

                                        Translated by Franklin D.Reeve


* * * (he to her)

I can smell her hair: like honey and milk
milk and honey, not turkish delight for kids
milk and honey, not sex and the lightness after
milk and honey, not the whole cup of coffee.

and she stands there scared, her shoulder bared,
she hands me her hand, her bare leg like silk,
and I confess it's a sin that there's nothing I need
from her hair, nothing but honey and milk.

                                        Translated by Matvei Yankelevich


* * * (citizens...)

citizens, the voice is speaking to you,
listen, the voice is speaking to you:

please be attentive at the station,
please be considerate while in motion,
please don't forget the things you brought along
please don't forget your acquaintances and friends
come on mitya, wave to mama

time is locked piece by piece in the cars of the train
save some for us, don't breathe in, don't breathe in

burst upward like fires, guns of the tunnels
go, elbow your way, my underground children

please be attentive and cautious
it's boring and scary
and frighteningly frightening
to live in this unruly din of the metro
to live in this voice, buttoned-down, sultry:
citizens, you'll forgive us of course
we can't help but address you

should we not weep, can we hold back our tears if...
we, orphans, conductors, divinities,
have been scattered over your moscows

we'll hang around, stepping close on your heals
we'll be mano a mano, looking over our shoulders
we'll be lowest of the low, like the last of the Huns
we'll keep very close as we exit the train
the oncoming wave of the stream of being

who are we, so easy, so breezy, run free
mommy, mommy, it wasn't me

we, irreversible brothers-in-sorrow
didn't they teach you? you never learn, do you?
please be contemptuous and pleasantly tidy
please be deferential, unfeeling and heartless,
be always and ever, forever be present
if no one else will, if there are no others

citizens, your Lord is speaking to you:
please stay with me, please don't forget me
please be beautiful, beautiful and eternal
in the earth's mortal tunnels.

                                         Translated by Matvei Yankelevich with the author


* * * (some will become a pebble)

some will become a pebble, and some the foam at feet:
to come alive, to be reborn, to lengthen.

tired bodies strand the coast
of lost chastity or childhood

and they say: deliver us; and they whisper: swaddle us.
the sand creaks like a cradle

and knits them with the earth, and lets them merge with waves:
the last atom. nothing. nothing.

                                         Translated by Mark Dawson with the author


* * * (fledgling)

This remains: the cave-dwelling tenderness, the coarse grinding of a kiss,
and a naked fledgling - alleluia, amen, be blessed!
Dampness and gloom, darkness and hunger, what else do we need
to exact our strange revenge in the heart of Leningrad,
in a mossy mineshaft, in the cracked palms of a saint
who carries the last word said, like a fragile boat
You - remaining silent, feigning sleep - will your eyes to open, look around!
What now do we need for the infant's uncovered head -
me an oar poised above the waters, or the fathers' old craft -
the last word, the one that is final which once was first.

                                        Translated by Mark Dawson with the author


Copyright Svetlana Bodrunova
 Rambler's Top100