Transitions №6

Author: Andrey Kostinsky

Translated by Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya


I will go…
to work as
…an angel
how many men
got up in this way
from bomb shelters
cellars and other protections
to look at the house or yard,
to get something for the family
to reach the broken hearth
and save at least something
from remaining relics —
an icon,
iron wedding rings
of the parents of their great-grandmother
their daughter’s first toy
a pencil portrait of their mom
by a street artist
in Shevchenko garden in the sixties…
and fell under shells, bombs, missiles,
they went away and did not return
[that was how one man,
to save his cow
because it could be killed by a shell —
did not take her to the meadow
but sharpened his scythe,
went off waist-deep into the grass…
the whistle of a scythe
the whistle of a mine
the sky is so big
but too small even for one soul]
…they couldn’t help but get up and go —
it was so important
that their loved ones were not hungry
it was so important —
to check if everything was intact
after the explosions
it was so important —
to remain
to remain an owner
and also, when they sent everyone away to safety
to walk through the yard from the fence to the apple trees
to climb on the roof
find the connection
and answer / grumble / lie to them:
“sure everything is fine
quiet as it was before.
we have electricity2.
no, I haven’t seen this,
I don’t like to watch it
what new would they say on TV” —
and turn off the phone just a moment before
the shelling started.
to go down to the shelter, to count
bags of rice for the dog
and broiler chickens from humanitarian aid —
this would be enough for 18 days
then we will come up with something
then our guys will be here

and if it is fate —
then become an angel
and then from there
look after the house
after the yard
after the country
to keep safe his loved ones
and Ukraine


The poem was written a day before the real story described in the lines in square brackets happened: a 45-year-old man went from his cellar to mow grass for his cow, as he was afraid to let her out to the meadow… He was the first casualty among the locals.


roads lead by hands
in different directions
each road goes forward and forward
roads don’t care
who is holding which hand
and how simultaneous is
the finish line
it is always a crossroad
but not here
under the cup of the sun – the moon
under the cup of the moon – the silence
under the cup of the silence – the sky
you can guess only one
you are lying:
the sky is a combined canvas
of a rag doll
her head is the sun
her wrinkles are the rays
keep silent now
shadow on one of the roadsides
curses the sun
for its attempt to take her by the hand
to put in another hand…
the roads lead [in] different…


three black windows:
the right one is my son’s window
in the middle is my daughter’s window
and on the left – a kitchen window a cat’s window

of us all it was Nyusha the cat who did not survive
for all of us the cat
had died that night
black soot
on the walls outside the apartments
it looks like it
spreads around in front of my eyes
like the soul of our cat
still not believing in her death
and trying to get out
from this hell

a cluster bomb
left a funnel in our yard
on the spot
where I used to take the kids to play
to the playground
and heard grumbling
from old ladies on badly painted benches:
“you should have put more clothes on your kids.
they will catch a cold in this draft”

now the draft of early spring
sings a lullaby
to dead (not)living quarters
where all photo albums of all generations
of our family are burned

when grandchildren of my children
ask to show them
a photo of my grandfather
who defeated fascism in 1945
they will hear the answer:
there are no photos of your great-great-grandfather
they were all burned by the Nazis


I sleep, oblate in sleep
between C and D
between house and nothing
neither I nor it
we don’t get closer
walls without palms of warmth
the palms touch
only the frames of the windows
the frames of the doors
between the windows
and doors
without the warmth of the palms
there are no   w a l l s
they are not to be built
without warmth
I sleep
in my sleep
T to __


warm up

burn down


At an autopsy:
“Is it you?” – “No!
From now on
I am where there is no death.”
“On the edge of the desert,
Where is the meaning lost in the sacrifice?”
“The wave rises there,
Where the sky is no larger than a sheepskin,
The soil is sprouting with heaven
By the word and without a reason.”
“It seems the sun will always be there,
And there will be no night anymore?”
“I need the sky at dawn —
The way is easy-difficult from the night.”
“What do you need in that land,
Where even rocks sprout with bread?!
Hey, where are you?” — “I am dying
Towards the sky of the earth…”