Transitions №4

Author: Olga Zondberg



That two-piece suit, scarlet, green and black —
he who wears it can never outgrow elegance.
In Arizona summer, lazy day,
children go with their parents to church.
They know how to read and conceal it,
happy to be small.
Everyone wants to live a long time.
He lived long, and died one fine day
encircled by a large family, like the ending
of an old, or all-too-new novel.
There, he will still be remembered after fifteen years
(such fifteen years!) Here, he’s known already.
Here, everything runs smoothly,
and spots shine on the seedy side of life
and a voice speaks, «Today is the beginning of the week,
only the beginning.» To forget time,
this and this, and the lines of your hands,
with greater valence, like a three-figured IQ.

Translated by Harriet Moorland and Laura D. Weeks



       anya is in the last class of special studies
evening streetlights wandering like high-beams
parents anya how are things at school
today a lecture in merology on the freedom of bones
anya closed her eyes and with her inner vision
contemplated her indistinct skeleton whispering to herself
this bone I will call anna
anna of the Beautiful Moon
anna wrote a letter to whomever
anna wrote You with a big tail on the «y»
anna always made mistakes in all the same words
anna received a thoughtfull, condescending reply
Beautiful Moon will I call the bone anna
       for three days anya was not called to the board
on the staircase anya thought up three historical words
révolution rêves révélation
       the gymnasium was packed
anya grabbed the climbing rope but it was the wrong time
       evening streetlights white weightlessness
anya buried herself in her fur coat until her hands were warm
into the subway she hurried her shoulder got pinched
the train knocked thunk, thunk, and the tunnel yum-yum-yum
       annie wrote almost no one is ready
to sacrifice something for a good cause
in her youth our annie was excessively shy
but she has made great strides and is now incomprehensible
anna of the Beautiful Moon emerged from the cave
anya who are you just a junior in high school.
and the excarnation is the long worn-out
forgotten device of sketching bodies on branches.

Translated by Laura D. Weeks



What’s age? Eight or nine or ten.
«Grow big and strong. Don’t be a lefty.
You’re still so small, uncomprehending,
And every second, someone’s whim

Plays the dickey with your soul.»
All by itself, the sky is frightened.
And you, finely-chiseled cypress,
Palms upward grow into your role.

There, the grain-heads fall away;
And all with silence interwoven.
Beneath the blows of deadly boredom
I call to mind the droll sixth case,

The prepositional: Of whom? Of what?
A smell of milk mingled with blood.

Translated by Laura D. Weeks


From “Crossing Centuries: The New Generation in Russian Poetry”
Talisman House, Publishers. Jersey City, New Jersey. 2000



* * *

The variety of animals, said Khlebnikov,
derives from their ability
to see God in different ways.

If the universe, said Hawking,
were different, we’d simply
not notice it.

From Chanel to Escape (a gorgeous
glossy journal alluded to them)
each year death has another smell.

There are people, writers,
who have written everything down,
instead of digital facsimiles.


* * *

has been cast up onto the shore
from it fell an icy fragment
instead of the first snow

three calendar kittens
november december january

february. march.

achilles took
the tortoise for a walk
working hours on the leash
of the short day

to see how our little winter,
long as a tongue
freezing to the iron cold
will not give in to the enemy
our proud varangian
both our hard sign and our soft


* * *

they all but cry out
young and not too
bald with a sky cap
with a parcel with a briefcase
white and white
because it’s snow

— suvorov and his skeleton

windspeed 17 meters per sec
distance time speed

first-rate audibility but a short memory
almost said two fools

audibility. almost

didn’t say


* * *

there were lots of them
but their fear was greater
some got flowers (I wouldn’t accept any
even if they themselves were overgrown with blooms
then I would) they raised children
hating the process
even more than the children
and so forth

I gave myself flowers, she says
because there’s nobody else

nobody could give here or anybody
in that she didn’t have anyone

well why are all my questions so hard

«You have to give yourself presents,»
croons Accident*.
«Time for yourself» —
Harlequin’s slogan,
deluging the town with cheap reading matter
love in soft covers
stupid as several donkeys

* Accident — name of a rock band.


* * *

To die. And be born as an inspector of playgrounds for tiny tots.
At night to write, as you hit the high spots,
Cradle songs for a play featuring a sleeping baby.
Or, more likely, being born as a timorous mushroom maybe.
Lonely tree stumps welcome the one-legged visitor.
Transformation into a tree or a mushroom is rare,
Mushroom and tree hang out together. At this sign kids
With baskets get ready to descend on the woods,
Where amid dark trunks a cobweb shimmers… Their eyes can’t take it in —
Pity, the basket is small. This pity’s the only kind known.
As for you, slender-legged mushroom, mercy is on the skids,
And no one will be born as an inspector of playgrounds for kids.

Translated by Daniel Weissbort


From “An Anthology of Contemporary Russian Women Poets”
University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2005