Transitions №2

Author: Tatiana Zima

Translated by Max Nemtsov

The Plot of December


along the eyelids’ cold-blooded veins
there crept december
slowly not raising were
the hands, the snow, the temperature
someone tried to laugh
but, unsupported,
just died


passerine shakespeare
who’d chirped on a fence, whistled
for bums and crows
grubbed the plot of december out of some snowdrift
now they will have something to chew on
late at longwinternights


this past night
with cats’ mewing
the two had been burying their love
and drank their tea after
souped up with neat alcohol


some good man
this morning suddenly had
his hair standing on end
ohmygod thoughts


it’d prob’ly nice to be bald and at home
towait forguests todecorate atree tosmoke apipe
to remember all that was good this past year
to wait affectionately for some bigger happiness


a tangerine rind in the snow
i can’t stand seeing you anymore

* * *

those arrogant dogs… they run silently, silver are their backs
in their inebriate eyes there are Clio’s fugues, the decline of all empires
the apple of their ire ripens… blue are their eyes
so let’s throw ‘em a bone!

those arrogant dogs… the pitch-darkness of Egypt, rapacious are their backs
their teardrops glisten, the paradise shadowy shelters are in their infernal eyes
their fangs filigreed with Urania’s mockery, doleful are their backs
so let’s whistle after them!

those arrogant dogs… they run silently, torpid are their backs
the Chinese emperor finishes his supper by quoting Lao
he wipes his greasy mouth with silk, asks for some water
so let’s give him his drink!

those arrogant dogs… headlong in the moonlight, glistening are their backs
the alchemist spews his in-folios, oh those damned volumes!
the apple is ripening… in the eye it never slumbers
so let’s sharpen the stylet!

those arrogant dogs… they are deaf and mute, inmost are their backs
but outspoken their fangs, the treasure of their eyes are ruins
the burning of Rome is reflected in Nero’s inspiration
so bring in more wood!

those arrogant dogs… centuries crowd in their eyes
they lap up the time, and Gehenna of empires is in their maws
the apple still ripens… the tears seething over… their backs are still blazing
throw ‘em their bone!

* * *

For Alyona Lyubarskaya

i set fire to the rain, and it burns
and they tell me, there’s no more you
can you believe it, they’re all nuts
i don’t get it, what does it mean, no more you

i don’t get it, why it should be, no more you
you sit here, smiling at the twilight, saying your poems
Emma is coming, you say, and i didn’t buy any bread
i don’t get it, how comes, no more you

i still wear your crucifix and your ring
you’re telling me, write on, Zima, and God bless you
and just as i scratch my letter to you ‘cross the clouds
they explain it to me, there’s no more you

i set fire to the rain, and it burns
i return all fallen snow to the skies
and i’ll believe, i swear, that this planet is round
only when i meet you on it somewhere

* * *

The black leafage rattles under the moon — cry, my joy, cry
this is what you don’t know and what I can gleam
my shadow drags me along to the far, far north

the moon is high, very high, and the trees are blue
those strange sounds, the leafage that creaks and gnashes
the fluorescent leaves are the moon’s doodads, heavenly doings

this is the February snowstorms, wet and scathing, they kiss your hands
this is Spain, it rattles the heart with its castanets, turning my blood into wine
this is my Spanish Diva, the Miracle Virgin, Donna Diana

here is my gob, cornucopia, here is my goblet
here is my mouth, bit with your squint, here’s the edge of my helix
my heart lost it’s beat, doesn’t pulse… where are you, Diana?

the hunteress slumbers, her cheeks o’ershadowed by her eaves
in the bloodless snows there the golden deer wander through your dreams
the blue-eyed unicorn washed in diamond tears, diamond fears

what are those tears for you, my beloved, those roses and flesh of a perfume
leaden skies of the north are swelled over the fulgent snows
take pity, Diana, here are the diamonds for you, the emeralds

the snow, Spain, a boat in the palm of my hand, and the macho machete
kisses are scorching as snakes that are hissing in snowdrifts
snows are the fuel, they flash and they flood, and they flux

Blue trees had come to me, with their black foliage, and the blue-eyed
unicorn had also come, and the deer who were golden
all of them came, came to me, they came for me

Eve sleeps in my rib, and there slumbers Diane, Diana


For Alexander Lobychev

The season is love, all snowflakes and fears are aflutter
love will bleed its punctured heart out all over the frozen grass
the kisses’ winter blood was drunk, and the tears were cried in fear
of dissolving in some foreign human heart

all was going to leave, and all left, there and back, and the fingers
they were frozen, there’s nothing to shake at the broken heart with anymore
coming back here, in shame for the lost stains and blotches
I will try to remember to slap my own cheeks and the palms of my hands

clutching at naked truth, a man all alone there stands
and alas, his feral heart can’t be stroked with hands
some bloodless prose falls down at his feet, weeping
and the man answers in verse

don’t you ever believe me, as long as this sorrowful bird
flies all over this orphaned earth, round and round, and then
you will know, my angel, the salt of my tears is the food for barbarians
then you’ll have to believe that the blood of my tears is the food for gods

poppies bloom in my heart, and the scarlet muscle of love is a-shudder
and we wander through shadowed lanes in our robes that are white like snow
here, the angel has whispered to me, where it’s dark and it’s empty
here, amidst those glorious blooms and this singing of angels

The Letter in a Bottle, attn Sasha Belykh, re Moral Nature

They were sitting covered with a quilt, without noticing that the village outside was all ablaze,
and burning pigs squealed in their barns…
It was either the pen was heavy, or the heart was empty.
— Alexander Belykh, “Flaubert’s Dreams”

…i wake up in the city with the broken bridge of my nose and October in my ear
who would dare tell me that it’s time to write a requiem
when everything draws to a close, i’m tempted to say, hi there, honey, —
and i do

…every morning i wake up in the same body i went to sleep in at night
every morning i wake up in the same body, in the same country, with same thoughts
every morning rings out with my animal wails
at my attempts to wake up human every morning

…in all my lies there’s no lying, there are only naked truth,
haemorrhoid morphology, syntactical paranoia, all true
and he has no talents, apart from one million dollars
not enough to buy one painting by van Gogh

…my mother says i’m a tomcat, brazen and lazy
i don’t go after mice, i don’t care a fig, snorting and purring
i don’t like kids, don’t like people at all, neither tv nor radio
but i like roads, violins, snow and loneliness…

…but i saw, didn’t i, how she cried, with her kerchief in horror
she felt so bad, with no St. Exupéry flying past, i saw it, i did
there’s some misunderstanding in the fact that i’m still alive
it seems there’s something wrong with those who du côté de chez Swann

…how she taught me to imitate birds in Mandarin and Russian
i kissed her hands, kissed her heart rainy evenings
told her farewell in French and in Spanish
but she left English-style, with no farewell to spare

…so we’ll go, Sasha, to your beautiful quiet lake
let it all rot in hell, we’ll just listen to lotuses blooming
oh i’m damned tired, Sasha, to wake up in the same age and body
with the same view of human misery and sorrow

…and y’know, Vasya Zorin has a soul of an angel, and real tears in his eyes
he reads poetry from clouds of the 9th century
Sasha, now i know what our Lord meant when
He was reckless enough to create us humans

…oh i was running in and out of different books, such a shame
anyway i could spoil any book with a torn-out folio… but
this naked beast that’s been drinking my blood all these years
i know, Sasha, it could never quench its thirst with blood

…and in his poems there bloated cicadas look through monocles
and the heart raped with unlove is carried away to die at dawn
he doesn’t cry, thinking he laughs, sweet Jesus, he’s not aware
that to laugh and to cry is one and the same i’m told, you God’s own fool, rascals are marked for life,
but i keep my love under lock and key, to put the evil eye off
and still it wants to go where no ravens go with their bones, Sasha
don’t you let it out that is has the wings of cast iron

…Sasha, there are no people in these bodies, knock knock who’s there…
is it really i who squints into the fall with motley eyes
i see that Bashō’s frog flopping into the pond, and i hear
the rain scraping against the leaves of grapes…

* * *

like a deeply moved boy, like a gash through a palm
the trail drags along, a butt sobs in my coffee
this bombastic old town gently grabs by the throat
carries on under arms and shoots through the head
like inebriate brothers in the sunset’s bile foam
like glass shards in the sun, all your frontward performance
the inlaying of faces, the patchwork of heart’s
like a major chord of the soul-leaving someone
like a beautiful freak, like a parasite smackhead
you a paradise pate on the capital beat
and a can-opener’s snug right behind your left ear
like a sexton you drop in the well of the soul
with your three-legged mutt, and you hiss yet unstubbed
you will rock in the boat of La Gioconda’s lips
you slice kisses off drunk women’s breasts with a razor
and you give them to men, for the blood vessels lack
in some oxygen, you like a wandering sailboat
in the waves of my blood, like a boy ripped apart
torn to words and quotations, a scorpion sitting
in the larynx with only three quarters of pain
you the bastard who gave me the bell for my neck

* * *

twenty nine scars, and the debts, and the shitty karma
and the sea-and-sail in my pocket, with no teeth to match the smiling
were you close to me, it would be the fifth bloody season
I would laugh in the face of this world, and you’d be saying
don’t go crazy on me, anyway it’s too funny to cry, no?
I would kick at clouds so they pour some rain right on our heads
I would feed my heart to the dogs, it’s so useless
and I’d make the world do some fierce blooming
but the doctor comes and he says, cry, you’re ill, there’s no hope
he writes up some recipe: Sanguisorba flowers
some Blattidae entrails, some pluck, and some fetid kernels —
saying, summer’s coming, dear, now it’s really on us

* * *


…a day in the fall
rolling like a stale thistle
clutching with otherworldly thoughts
at the landscape’s still-life

black on blue
it scratches its characters of death
and the ciphered air crumbles under my collar
with its small dead type

in the iron grip of November
the heart bleeds
a bird’s strangled cry bursts out
and the milk skims on my lips

the merciless sting of the fall
wasps the glistening irises out
of the November air watcher

with his blue lips he
traces seven arrested notes out for a walk
thanks for the attempted escape
but no thanks

the time-blackened skater
speeding from a Brueghel painting
has already sliced the memory’s decrepit ice
wistfully hugging the
stolen Van Gogh’s sunflowers


the black night
bleeding with yellow longing
masticates the flavous yolk
with its ferric louver

tell me, you racy specimen
who steals the air from my lungs
who disjugates my verbs and
feeds pronouns to the dogs

who has let a tear
trudge along my cheek in this cold, you?
you icteric creature
this is your pack of yellous dogs
gnawed an eff off of all
and now chew at each other
with their muzzles splotched with blood

take yourself in hand
there’s Gogol’s shadow there in the corner
burning his manuscript for the umpteenth time

out with you, fools

* * *

For Sasha Belykh

To all those who’ve long been over the fall and past
midnight, Sasha, there’s enough windmills with their wind
to bend foxgloves, bellflowers and stocks out of shape
together with those words that’d escaped their hateful books
and sages in embroidered kimonos…

It’s over there, Sasha, where the water is pilfered by water-carriers
there they speak in silky tongues, licking clean simultaneously
and, like emeralds, the words glimmer in the air and out of it
it’s terrifying to think Mandarin about
the dust that came back to the place
where you’d just not been in — or have you? doesn’t matter…
it’s so empty, Sasha, to think at all
as the Japanese blizzard of sea spit is all around you
flying off the pages
of almost decomposed characters, cherry blossoms
and shit like this…

Here, Sasha, is the ravaged orchard
you enter it along the line of the torn paper
and the boys who sit by the gate will let you through
not through the rain or nowhere else to go, no one knows why…
here, Sasha, they think the langue of gods as much as the birds’ language
they swap their mangy words
they twine their laurel wreaths, and all day long
they all drink milk, they don’t crumb their bread, they don’t speak to no one…

Here the sky is criss-crossed by boughs, and the land by shadows
and here you’ll never know where the sun will rise

no matter whom you strangle with your embraces
the anguish is the same…

Here, Sasha, there’s the tree (it’s either a cherry, or a plum) under which
Mishima has been weeping, spitting stones out, writing something
from right to left, sometimes he yells…
but nothing can be heard, Sasha, the wind’s too strong…

so when the sea recedes, leaving
shells, clams and shrimps on the beach
you’ll meet him, going left to right…

* * *

retaining dust and warmth of the south on its wings
the bird squints back with its rheumy eye
between the shepherds’ shrieks at early dawn
and the spilt milk at sunset there the
horror of the murdered time drowses in a cup of tea…

so when you return to me as a beautiful hag
the prehistoric snow will be falling softly with
its white flakes hitting the icebrick water
there’ll be no time for any rubbish about
a cuckoo in the woods and a lost little key

* * *

For Oksana Borisova

a sparrow twitters without asking
did it happen or not
it just is
a girl is watching through her ungual eyes
and a cobble is watching her back with its eyes full of love
not without tears in them
in this twittered city, who would pity whom
who could…
and he has hollow veins
and she has eyes of blue
and the heart
one and only…
the conurbated fall in
the folded wings of a hawkmoth
there is a sparrow for it, what ails you?
has anyone twitched their noses asking
if the air is edible here?

so what the bloody sparrow gives?
only no pain can be worse than the pain
the sparrow twitters with no asking
if anyone’s afraid here
or not afraid…

* * *

For Lena Kochugova


amorous flies walk around on tiptoe oh
the red smells a mile and it means that October is nigh
why did they snap that neck of tenderness, why
i do not want to blow zeppelins out of those flies

someone had stolen my home on the palm of his hand
my feline heart, don’t you dare, don’t purr and don’t waul
if i could speak all those languages there would be no
one of them i would be wishing to say something in

now something is surely different there in my blood
it’s like a sparrow lit up, and the branch spatters snow
yes, there are times when i know why i have to live on
no, but i’ll never be telling this to anyone anyhow


the dahlias suddenly are an exhalation, the fall also exhales and inhales
the joints of long fingers come to me in the verse on chicken legs
i’m bleeding books when the moon is up
and i’m setting down like dust
and chalking out the shadows…
hell no, it doesn’t help a bit
they’re silent like a finger at the lips
there’s nothing worse than being one of them…

in fits and starts, the fall kicks out and then
it loses speed, turning the air into sheer rain
hell no, not this… look, listen, here it is
the windowpane guzzled the half-face in the night
and the features slipped to the sill in an autumnal puddle
that will reflect the clouds, no bottom to be seen…

sometimes the skies are damn disgusting…

November’s near
and the watercolor voice is near spilling
right after the October’s crumpled details
the closer to November, the more pauses, and
like a footnote to loneliness, in the eyes
there is more nighttime snow, powdering the pupils

* * *

For Patricia

summer’s flowing out with its emerald snows
we had deemed it winter and got lost much later
we had cried of springtime and fell in love somewhere
right between the golden and heavenly-sodden

the childhood was remembered and the kite was flown
we had thought in white for the black weren’t frightened
we had thought in black the more we had the weirder
and the more malicious were the stark black letters

we’d cried our eyes out and were brought the new ones
nothing’s very simple in the seashore city
birds don’t purr and crows they don’t growl either
paper doesn’t burn and verses don’t live

* * *

the snow’s very soon to fall, what else is there?
the crucified cotton-numb blood’s in my fingers
I feel, like Swift said, speech will get me in trouble
it’s time to pick rubbish and fleas from her fur

the ice in black water will burn with the light
that shimmers, and then skies are green yet again
in this pale sun gray-eyed I roam and squint
clamping my smile in the teeth, help me God

can you believe me, or can’t you, that I had a dream
the flesh of the petrified grass cringed and fled
dean Swift, please be swift with your whistling, I’m dead
fuck knows who is living here now in lieu of me

* * *

The hunting. The hunting. The hunting.
The faces are worn out with the crimson wind
and the days are now long as the wind
the word chucked on an empty stomach cleaves like a shaft
one wishes to drop out or, in reverse, to drop in
in sweet hibernation, and one can’t comprehend for quite a time
if that’s me who’s standing there, and it’s all hurled towards me, or
it’s me who’s turning everything about me into the mush of clay, water and foliage
with my head drawn in, freezing mid-flight
leaving the rain-cudgeled landscape to the innocent eyes

the blood of my heart says, you knock or you don’t
if tears are screwed out, it’s so sweet to stay down forever
there’s no shame in lying, like an apricot stone or a rind
deep down under the blanket of the off-azure snows

you scream or you don’t, no matter, just give me your paw
give me something, some hawk-fuzz to feather my eyes
let me see through my eyes so that I never miss anything
let my moth-balled blood shine out in all my limbs and my cheeks

I’m not there, not here, no warden I’m unto him, no
and don’t ask him to stand like a human, full-height
for a dragon is commonly drunk on the fine art of flaying
and the arrow-head may not be sharp, but it surely is poisoned

oh the Mandarin Greek of the pliable Russian discourse
when the emerald growth shoots through lice-ridden mouths
as the verbal flesh flows, leaving its robes behind
like consumption, like maple syrup, like an empire of speech

and the blizzard, not letting back in, only pierces the pupil
that is sharp and so thorny that it chills the ribs

Omnia mea mecum porto

squeeze out of me — the beast — the slave — the vermin
the wormwood milk — the mosquito blood — the toad
the ant eggs — the sting — the laughter — the moisture
the refined lumps of fear — the bitch — the stinkard — the pest
squeeze the fool out of me — the rotter — the imbecile
the third eye — the gills — the freak
the stiff — the tyrant — the jeer
the passions — the shame — the roar — the rope
squeeze the blood within me — the anguish — the liver
squeeze everything out of me leaving
nothing to expound spew choke with nothing
to bid farewell to you with

* * *

For Alexander Dyomin

…the city of operatic winds and tickling words
when erring, it’s easy to grab by the throat, laughing
here, at the murky shore of the great language
it’s easier to choke on it than bread and water
so the land fattens on the poets
committed to it forever and ever

…this is the lyricism of trashcans
of brutal things and feral roads
so I run and I run and I run and I run
I’m all of them, the arrow and the target and the sharpshooter
and I can’t run away

…so while I was learning hard to laugh, so serious
I unlearnt to cry, I don’t know what is worse
I’d like to swell with blood in the subjects of sorrow
I’d wish like hell to be the dust under its fingernails
the fall happens to poems, like it comes to the nature
just imagine, the hunter is avid for the dogs’ breath
and there’s nothing to clamp your teeth on
and there’s no one to kick my teeth out of my mouth

…a cat-or-kitty will slip by with some thievery in its mouth…
a sparrow will dart through the summer and out of my heart…
there’s a draft from all corners and nooks and it draws into void…
and the morning is bravely erected like a brick wall…
my city will suddenly leer with inimical verdure…
the crows and nuthatches and landrails will cackle like nightingales…
Lord have mercy on me, shoot me quick

* * *

open the eyes, open the window, open the door
tell me why the date today should be like before

look what’s out there, the downpour, the leaf fall, the frost
choose whatever you like, the deliberation’s the worst

see how deep here is the shadow of the rain
it’s all despite the night, and all despite the day

there’s no time here, trust me, in this pouring rain
you have to trust me, the void pushes everything away

can you believe it, the words here got chucked like wood
by woodchuckers who chuck as much as they could

forget the date and shut the door, be wise
and close the window, and don’t open the eyes

* * *

For Mikhail Pavin

…there’s a magic cove around the corner
and they walk topsy-turvy there
they drink air with nothing in it
and light up with their eyes
the invective and the paradox
walk hand in hand along the main street
the five-o’clock there is black-and-white
and the ne-quid-nimis is all the year round
and the yellow scarf there is fa-brutto-tempo
and this is that there, and that is far from being this…

I’m leaving with no luggage and in style
with just a fistful of my smile

* * *

For Nika Dzidzoyeva

I will leave for Vanino to
brush my soul with a feather
a sparrow’s feather
to brush my soul with
I will leave by train
I will leave by daylight
leave for Vanino slipshod
I will leave by train
I will leave as if dead

by the rain of the seventh month
I will leave by train
to brush my soul with a feather
my soul with a feather in Vanino
my soul my soul my soul