Transitions №7

Author: Lena Kraitsberg

Translated by Richard Coombes

Who do you have there?
I have my childhood there
I have a dream there
A big family
Beneath the blossoming cherries
Grandpa’s sisters
Grandma’s brothers
And seventh cousins twice removed.

I have vines there, in Krasino,
A vegetable garden, cattle, maybe chickens.
The JDC’s been sending supplies and seedlings
And lent a hand with the infrastructure.
A clay floor. A Jewish collective farm.
Grandma’s favourite heifer is dead
They’re drying her hide in the barn
Now the barn scares her silly.
And then the war.
Which war?
That one, the second…

I have kinsfolk there at the long table.
Grandpa’s alive and cheerful
They’ve greeted our meeting with a skinful
And I’m guarding him, sneaking about
the dacha yard: I’ve never seen drunks before.

I have pigtails there, braided back in Kishinev,
They’re coming undone: I can’t put them back in myself, I’ll wait till I get home.
My heels are chafed to bleeding from long walks
But I won’t admit it to anyone in the world.
And the hydrofoils to Odessa
If you hold on to the handrail you won’t get seasick.
I mean you will, but no one will notice.

I dreamed of a lake I already know
From dreams I’ve had before.
I was a funny crawling thing,
Of all the paths quite sure.
But I got arthropodally muddled
And had to guess: when I
Would see the way down to the lake
And would it be full or dry.
In my dream north south and east
And west and dark were all
A mess. I-it set off the way that
But there was a wall.
I-it made very careful note,
Feeling it out by heart.
When what I already know appears
I’ll wake up with a start.