Translations from Russian

Transitions №2

Author: Olga Bragina

* * *
I don’t see why you must remember 1980s Kyiv
the white walls the sterile windows of the church
the empty silence the lines of white bandages and fresh asphalt
still hot scorching underdone bitumen
why you must remember the waterless fizzy water vending machine those white celandine meringues
you’ll be forever stuck leafing through old photos here’s one of you just before your birthday
sneaking past the heroes of the revolution past the warm columns of autocracy the symbols of homeland
I don’t see why you must remember Kyiv now no one lives to love the dead or tear apart notebooks
and the cloudy Podol oil Annushka spilled
I don’t see why you must remember who lived in house that was Emperor Nikolаi’s favourite colour
those who told tales to the caretaker and to childhood friends
they didn’t recognise or remember you after all these years
here a democratic life passes under local anaesthetic
something with no name other than why must you remember 1980s Kyiv divided into before and after
folded pages in the spine of Duke Berry’s book of hours
love is restless and unkind it doesn’t end or begin only the burning asphalt
the shortages of potato peelings acorns and tap water
shortages of bath salts cheerful people in the metro
I don’t see why you must remember

translated by Mark Wingrave

* * *
the leading poet of our country sits
under the image of a woman
with bread and leazings harsh
face lines a kerchief the color of ash
the goddess of the fields Juno
a blurred slurry of residue
can one write poetry sheaves
crush the leazings study cross-out
don’t overdo it with meaning
remember quotes from the ancient classics
and refer to them out of place no one
wants to watch your youtube channel
or google your name
Juno is blind as the death of justice
beautiful women harmless blades limited credit
can one write poetry after all this various poems
about being bored talk one’s head off over
its inevitability can one not write poetry
there is no difference none since
the leading poet of our country does not sleep much
thinks a lot about cold radiators
full buses about empty radiators
our city buses roads going somewhere
rain does not change its direction poems
are duller than harmless blades
beautiful women the clink of coins
the zeroed out numbers of the street cars the depot.

* * *
you as the reason for putting words together
in sentences of varying degrees of awareness
adding meaning there where it cannot be
the fish holds the charge two seconds after
does not remember anything the water darkens with silt
you as the reason for the gift of the gab over darkness saving drafts
one can fill it with books by different authors
porcelain souvenirs a set of kids crafts for four
the whole text can be kept open in the cold wind of our earth
on the boring heather-covered wastelands of our nation
in the dismantled city lego packed into a concrete box
you as the reason for giving thought to unnecessary things
reason for crossing out before the city of clay the golem of chill
can be put together in a puzzle without a dash of the heart itself
it exists somewhere but not here not all the letters have been involved
you as the reason for forgetting getting rid of the necessary junk
the table drawers are full of your geometry notebooks
everything adds up the parallel lines are bluffing everything will be not so
you as the reason for spending letters

we sit on a bench drinking champagne and discussing Shopenhauer
how he disliked women and envied hussars
I ask why did he envy hussars he was so smart
you say because they had origins
a bag lady approaches us begging for money you offer her champagne
she refuses saying she doesn’t drink
I can only guess why Shopenhauer disliked women
other than that according to him women have crooked legs
and also they yak and yak about what one doesn’t want to hear
or else are quiet at the wrong time
undisputably love is dumber than philosophy
love is dumber than bag ladies’ champagne and passers-by
and now that definitions have ended one can be quiet at the wrong time
we sit on a bench discussing absent friends the weather in Kharkov
apparent unlove and its possible parallels

translated by Tatiana Retivov

all right not dead but could be living more intensely
the high A key always gets stuck in the song about Lorelei
this language is hardly for love for it only spares the umlaut
first roses burst into bloom in a window trimmed with frost
couplet three says that there’s no one else here but us word eaters
who taste the fruit of forbidden flesh and hang on tighter than burs
I’m clueless what’s happened to me it’s a heresy not worth thinking
like a hangman’s victim hanged head down still clinging to meaning
but consequently since I am not yet dead I could finish reading Heine
under an arterially cracked plexiglas but sadly hardly anyone
recalls how the comb burned the palm or broke on rocks its teeth
the translator mayn’t be half bad but these shallows are too deep
and if I definitely ain’t dead just a tad purple in the jaw the kinder-
garten naps no one throws pillows into the abyss to grasp what’s in there
no one is stepping into a brook no one’s drawing hills in a drawing book
which brims with no prophecy and will never come true for us to see
so and now let’s listen to the Four Seasons shall we

prefabricated concrete eyesores shall remain
the landmarks of your haunted windowpane,
along with passersby in black from the chinese
commodity markets. i’ve read the to-do list, with ease
forgetting it. marching in a column, they’ll walk
past the construction warehouse and back
to where i’d truly have loved to find some wet
matches in the melting snow and tried, but failed,
striving for so many years to quit smoking.
as the roman orator said… never mind, it’s boring.
folks walk out the brightly lit supermarket,
plastic bags filled with cabbage heads. let
more water dissolved in port spill on snow. ah yes,
must remember to buy matches and roller bandages.

translated by Philip Nikolayev