Words from under the weedgreen water

Transitions №5

Author: Alla Gorbunova

Translated by Michael Molnar



a rainbow stamped in petrol
puddles on asphalt,
murmur of tramcars,

in the soiled snow lies
my icy,
         bast-shod fatherland.

in salt scattered onto snow,
in the sparse lights
of a darkened city

my sick fatherland breaks
         into a childish smile.

the kittens, the kittens at sundown
miaow as if martyred – what do they announce?

o, those tyres and knee-boots,
pavements and highways, junctions,
road barriers, hyperstores, self-service stations!

here is the mystery cult of the city,
humming wires along its outer limits.

taxis and trolleybuses,
boutiques and cafés,
the endless swarm that is the underground!

mortally beautiful,
blue crystalline vapour.

and the bitterness of a cigarette on my lips
licked off, I slipped away
along tramlines.

I wanted to take in
all the life that I could,
I bit my lip till it bled, clenched
my teeth, scorched my hand on a cigarette butt,

but it wasn’t enough, I wanted
to seize more than I could

of the force that seeped through, of the wind, of voices
huskily murmuring something or other,
to lie across the rails, head thrown back
together with you,

in your prussian army shirt from the charity shop
(definitely that one!),
but the bitter taste on our lips
won’t be touched by the hoarfrost:
it’s spring! –

spring! spring!
that’s the cherubim’s song.
beauteous spring! –
so lightly serious!
like white honey,
like a mother’s tears, —
brightly flowing onto my fatherland.»



I sailed across the sea and I sailed to the holy city.
The city is falling down.
A great abundance of golden birds perched on boughs, painted peahens,
The city is falling down.

I want more light, more luxury, more fire, more self-abandon!
                                                                  – in this town of the young,
town where they fuck fulltime
— those dying generations –
the salmon falls, the mackerel crowds,
myriads of iridescent fish, gold, silver, scarlet.

All the abundant riotous summer long flesh multiplies
and flesh decays: death and nature –
hatefilled little sisters.

Graves yawn, temples are raised from the bones,
monuments to majesty,
shrines of shame –

I actually sailed there.
The city is falling down.

You, standing in God’s holy fire, as in the gold mosaic of a wall,
teach my heart to pause, fall still, delight in secret,
to sing to those lost lords and ladies and to wake the drowsy Emperor.

I sailed across the sea…
The city is falling down.



will I stand, will I stand it
                                      or will you fling me down
in flinders, mountain water,
howling and splitting
my body into splinters
grabbed by the flood,
you, downfalling water
where roedeer and wolverine
                            timorously come,
where bluefleshed nymphs loose their spume-locks,
thundering song, ever-creating song,
dislodging earth underfoot,
bringing me to my knees,
hurtling me headlong
mind spinning into a whirlpool.


alpine piano

Madame *** set up a pianoforte in the alps
                                      (A. Rimbaud)

an alpine piano: what a good time it gives us!
an unseen mountain spirit fingers the keyboard.
the pedals drop, damping, sustaining the note.
the disturbed machine rattles its hammers.
listen, chamois, deer and partridges,
know this: an alpine piano has no weight,
                            and where the shoulder blades are
it has wings, it scatters its grapes and edelweiss,
alpine poppies, strawberries, orchis, herbs,
a jackdaw landed on the keyboard – did a little waltz.
a marmot pressed a pedal:
                            the right one
sustaining the note, and the left one
                            damping it.
the gait of the music is hesitant:
a chamois dancer lands on one hoof.
a sostenuto passage — a marmot trod
the pedal, but this alpine piano of ours has long been out of tune.



from under the weedgreen water:

drafting trails of unmemory.
resonant songless forest depths.

walk the dream landscapes
past a farm where a dumpy finnish woman milks the cows,
where a nun hones a knife.

there will be a house and a porch and a roofed well:
collect windfalls in your apron from under the silver appletrees,
meet your husband returned from the war,
                            meet your son returned from the war.

at the threshold – a hurtling wait –
fall on his chest, brush the dust from his overcoat.

fir trees way back keel over creaking,
oak doors closing shiver,
but he’s pale, he’s pale, the darling, and not like himself.

no use plucking carrots and dill from the garden:
he refuses to eat.
there’s a hole in his overcoat, dark blood,
you look into his eyes:
                            his soul is no longer there.

and you scream and run into the fields,
and there in an orderly row,
all similar as twins,
men in overcoats are hobbling:
                            husbands, sons, fathers, —

from under the weedgreen water: yours, Lethe.