Transitions №4

Author: Julia Kunina (Trubikhina)

Translated by Betsy Hulick and the author (poems of 2007)


Two Roses (variations)

«Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made…»

Truth, a charming bibelot,
decked out in beauties,
to be loved – the scent
more precious than the bloom,
these canker roses,
like empurpled wounds,
lifelong unwanted
fading unmourned
dying with speech
stifled in their throats

From the crimson wounds of the sun
streams the sunset, and wearied out
the globe of its head
rolls into night.
You, anonymous creature,
are missing from the lineup,
can rightness be yours?
Truth is the work of
scant youth, of thin smoke,
how can your bone of truth
be ground into that other?
From ducks, eggs, needles,
come fairytale deaths,
and your unscabbed secret
bleeds under the breastbone.
Death, looming with his scythe,
casts the leanest of shadows.
This is what I know:
from the mortal sweat of roses
is the sweetness of things distilled.



How headstrong the driver
how headlong the flight
The age stands stock still, stupefied
milestones flash by
the stationmaster paces.
No one sleeps.
A lull of some sort
some suffocating closeness
anticipates the death knell
of a world of grown men.

And a great wind gathers force
at the still center of the storm.
We are children, little Liu,
we are the dust of war
we are the first to be airborne, lifted
by the hot wind, for we are   

How alone we are, Liu, child!
Your house was built on sweet trifles
and not a thatched straw is left
bit by bit all has been scattered
dispersed, cast to the winds.
Come away with me!

So be it –
                              draughty illusions of the private self
                              the rustle of September leaves in birch forests
We know you –

                              barbarians, heads covered in lynx fur.
                              Swift of foot are your shaggy ponies
                              each with five legs, like the Assyrian bull
                              still in motion. And trampling when still.

We are not a simple tribe, our tongues
Bitten by circumlocution, crushing us,
mustard seed souls, in dust.

From too much plenty, we weep, grateful tears,
you and I, that this is our allotted time.
It shall not be torn from us, we shall pass through
like roots pushing through earth.
And really, why complain
that a whirlwind has snatched us up
and we were scattered, strewn about, flung wide
and there was no help for it.
What good does “help” do?
No one sleeps.
Nor do you, husked seeds,
spilled from the hand
that held you, sleep.