Selected poems

Transitions №2

Author: Olga Koltsova

Translated by Dmitri Manin

* * *

down below shadows creep on the ground not yet thawed from the cold
it’s the wind on the run hitting windowpanes covered with rain
in the gunmetal glass watch a negative slowly unfold
and it’s snowless and bare on the heart and the heart’s drunk with pain

not the mud and the slush of the spring only angleless murk
Cassian brews Märzensterben and March is already on guard
and a deacon drones on and the hanged streetlight swings with a jerk
and the joker stares out of the quads like a sharper’s marked card

do not play with the devil never mind if he looks like a star
pious pilgrim meek nun throw the sorrowful shawl on your hair
see me dropping a penny my only one into your jar
and the blood-flooded sunset spill out on the cobblestone square

in the graveyard tombs stretch every way like the arms of a cross
in the middle I stand where the church bells incessantly chime
and I can’t see the face of the twin irrevocably lost
whose immovable profile stays at the beginning of time

* * *

Draw a hieroglyph with your narrow-eyed needle on wax,
on the pliable hot wax of eyelids, and break the blood seal,
let the needle eye squint, rummage hard in the heavenly racks;
don’t annoy me again in the ditch with your faceted spiel;

wind will enter the heart, its steps rustling on steep-rising stairs,
where a throng of the winged ones soars high in the air of the night,
and the soul will respond to the grumbles, complaints, mournful airs,
gaining answers in candlewax drips with recovering sight;

neither harbor nor house in the stir-trouble dark, nothing left,
only, riding the wind, an extinguished star’s light faintly shines
and the gash in the clouds opens, swells with mercurial heft —
it’s the crystalline lens, the seared vessel of ominous signs.

* * *

Perhaps all isn’t what it is, all crazy buzz and haze,
the Zodiac, a Martin Zadek and a flying maze.

All is, perhaps, just fuddled, flawed, a total omigod,
a pickled thistle in a pod, buffoonery and fraud.

All is, perhaps, just fruitless strain, day after day no gain,
All goes to waste and down the drain, even the dawn’s in vain.

A fiddler on the roof, on watch, on sundial, on the rise,
a bugler over Krakow flies against the smoldering skies.

All probably just isn’t it, a lotto, and all that,
Geppetto, Toto, and a great big waterproof hat.

Tobacco probably ran out, the devil’s sneer is lewd.
There was a man who left his home and disappeared for good.

* * *

a string, you say? — well, I would much rather say: tuning fork,
a membrane, a pupil, a hangnail, a sore wound; as though
one yanked the emergency brake at full throttle, full throw —
a plankton of people in total confusion and murk;
exhort me to show the decorum, to temper my antics,
keep telling, keep telling: you mustn’t, you shouldn’t, you can’t;
by rote and by heart: in agreement there is no content,
because the obedience is lifetime from nine and to six;
but I’ll disobey, for I want to eavesdrop on the sly,
To witness spells cast, vows professed, and perhaps curses made —
The endless thread rolls off the wheel never broken or frayed,
I follow the skein unaware of the where, whence and why;
but there’s no meaning, you’ll say, in this hazy word stew,
no meaning, I’ll say, but an essence wells up between lines,
the soul throws a bluff, soars up over the rainbow and shines,
a fortune slip drawn once again by the fraud cockatoo.