Transitions №2

Author: Kira Freger

Translated by Max Nemtsov

* * *

to dedicate a pome or not to dedicate a pome
what’s a big deal, hey, a pome’s a pome
a problem indeed when you have a whole pome
a pome itself is a nice little tome
be it a short pome or a long pome
a rhymed pome or an unrhymed pome
it’s a pome on paper and in the head it’s a pome
a pome ‘bout a raindrop and a pome ‘bout a snowcone
if you dedicate a pome it’s still your pome
if you don’t dedicate a pome it’s still your own
it’s your pome and it’s my pome
a smart pome knows those who have it at home
a proud pome knows it’s the pome
and only a very inquisitive pome
wants to know if you like it and why to you it roamed
to dedicate the pome or not to dedicate the pome

* * *

when all my thoughts were only of you
you were there reading poems by the girl
who wrote them for the girl
who you loved even when you were there
with other girls and the girl who
wrote the poems you were reading there
you were also there when you loved
the girl for who the poems were written and
who was not there together with the girl
who if she never wrote any poems at all
would have never known the girl
the poems for who you were reading there as if
you wrote them for the girl who you loved as much
as all my thoughts were there of you

* * *

can’t be worse than to be a good friend
can’t be worse than to be good
can’t be worse than to be
can’t be worse
be worse than a good friend
worse than good
can’t be

* * *

so that’s what we’ll do
beat about the boo
grab a smoke when “what time is it?”
hold a tongue when “will you read me like a palm?”
read lips when “will you keep me mum?”
I keep you this way anyway
if there’s anything more uncompromising than never
it’s probably you
when clocks start speeding up
they’re probably ours
with seven lives a week
and one death an hour

* * *

you look from a pome like a cat from a poke
it falls and doesn’t break still trying to break away
don’t think you’ve found for you never looked
your eyes won’t scorch even though you’re the sun
I’m not your confederate, your accomplice, your friend
not even your fellow for we never laid down
you there hear signals, the sound dies
and from above you know but without us, not anymore

* * *

when they retreated
Uncle Volodya spent 32 hours in a snowbank
then 2 months in a hospital
after the duration he spent 40 years stoking a furnace
he always brought his lunch with him
usually a can of borsht
heated it in a tin bowl
and ate it straight from the stove
it should be boiling, he explained
and added,
“Volodya likes it hot”

I don’t think he ever got warm

* * *

my first love
roared with laughter from heaven
eighteen years later
when it turned out that
all the poems dedicated to K.F.
and carefully scripted in the green
notebook cut to a writing pad
that survived many a move from place to place with me
were written by the poet Yekaterina Gorbovskaya
he only changed pronouns in them
and I wept for a year reading them over and over
after he had left me
explaining that
we were separated by reasons that helped to cause something to happen
a painful farewell hint
at my B in Russian
then I wept for another year
when it turned out that
my first love
wasn’t my last

he was a poet alright though he’d never written a line of his own
he had enough poetry in his life like
when he said mama for the very last time at five
or when his hair fell out after his service at a radiation control base
or when his wife broke a guitar over his head
tired of all his loves in every garrison town
women swarmed after him

his daughter said, I changed eleven schools
and though I was sorry to part with my friends
all through my life
I’m not sorry about anything now
I have tons of schoolmates at
my Schoolmates.ru page

after his discharge he taught history in school
when the principal got wind of our affair
she thought I wouldn’t be a problem for her
I’d plead guilty and she’d sack him
but she never knew me
and had long forgotten
about first loves

several years later
I met his son
he was a graduating senior
and smoked brazenly right in front of the school doors
we said hi
and he whispered something to his friend
who asked loudly, your dad’s?
and looked me over appraisingly
I could see the dad’s rating skyrocketing

and much later I realized
that all poetry is circumstances
the reasons that help to cause something to happen
oh and Yekaterina Gorbovskaya
is alright
when you’re sixteen

* * *

to be in love
isn’t enough to be in love
no way to be in love
to be in love

to be born in the same age with the one to be in love with
isn’t enough to be born in the same age with the one to be in love with
no way to be born in the same age with the one to be in love with

to know him
isn’t enough to know him
the way is to know him as well

to give more to take more
isn’t enough to give more to take more
one way is to give more another way is to take enough

to watch the snow from one window
isn’t enough to watch the snow from one window
the way is to goggle at the snow from one window

requited love
isn’t enough for requited love
to love is requited

to lie in one grave
isn’t enough to lie in one grave
it’s like lying in one grave

* * *

when I listen to the music I always pump the bass up
not because my best friend was a bass player
not because my man was a bass player
and of course not because I’d been in love with a bass player for many years

I just love this sound
that’s why I turn that knob
and let my memories
electrocute me

yet I fetch a large circuit each time avoiding men with bass guitars

and when I dream of stanley clarke victor wooten
marcus miller jaco pastorius
suzi quarto gene simmons paul mccartney
zhenya sasha serezha
their gibsons and fender telecasters
their brilliant solos
and erotic postures

I tell them with tears of
gratitude in my eyes, “you’re beautiful. I love you”

then you take my headphones off
and whisper, “don’t cry baby
it’s OK
I love you too”

and the next day
you go and buy me
another record by the Tony Levin Band

* * *

the night was uncommonly calm
but just before the dawn
I tore you apart
with four machine-gun bursts
and a bit later
hanging on by your eyelids as they say
you stood up
and tore me apart with
ten machine-gun bursts of your own
and then we
both slept dead to the world

when I woke up
I found
that I’d left the vibrating alarm on
and there were two rejected calls
the first one from lesha
he never waits longer than four rings
not to wake anyone up

the second one
was from my mom
she always calls long
to wake everyone up
decent people don’t sleep until noon

I called lesha back
and asked to call longer
next time
or to call again a bit later
like a coup de grace

later in the afternoon I called mom
and said
that I’d left the phone
when I went to work
so I couldn’t call sooner

why should she know
that I’ve been out of job for two months
I sleep until noon
and have nightmares
when you shoot me
with her kind hands

mom said
I called to remind you
that your grandmother
would’ve turned 99
and today’s
the leningrad siege anniversary
yes mom
and the shoah too

you know
I’ve been out of job for two months
I sleep until noon
and have nightmares
don’t ever call me again this early
it tears me apart
why do you need another obit
in january

* * *

an old woman in shoe covers
leaves the Sklif
heading for subway
past Julia Vysotskaya’s restaurant
but we
she thinks
are eating at home
that is, checking herself, am