Transitions №3

Author: Ilya Semenenko-Basin

Translated by Nina Kossman


                             To my mom

We went to watch time
we crumbled wheat bread in front of its burrow,
we fed it like a rat.
It was useless.  We could see with our own eyes
warriors who shared their prey,
birds pecking kisses.
                  Wisdom is dancing with angels;
                  reapers rejoice in judgment.

Blue people stood like candles on tables,
and others flew. The world was trembling,
falling birds saw the mouths of stones.
And now, rivers flow all over the world,
great rivers of the plains.
We went to the red beach to wash our clothes.
                Wisdom is dancing with angels
                Reapers rejoice in judgment.



The nomad didn’t buy anything, yet he paid good money,
metallic money on a red cord,
He didn’t take any things or new desires for himself.
He just rode on.
At the end of the era, there is stuff left: lake salt,
the taste of camel milk. In the steppe
it’s impossible to accumulate anything, and no one wonders why.
Useless mind, located in the face of a clock.



in one thousand nine hundred and thirty-ninth year
my great-grandfather wrote to his relatives

“I now enjoy drinking coffee in the morning,
because of that 1 can of condensed coffee in the package”

this letter was sent from nine hundred and fourth kilometer
of northern railways

                  section one
                  of the fourth branch of Oneglag*


* * *

The dark sound above the purple land,
a harbinger of the name,
how I need you in the emptiness
of this field, which did not bear fruit.
To you and me — only the crown
of one-story houses, a lens
of the sliding space,
a forest that used to be a lake,
a field that vanished in houses
everything we covered with the wind
that blew from the southeast.
And now we hit cow ridges –
with a gigantic air.


*Oneglag – a camp in the GULAG, a system of labor camps maintained in the Soviet Union from 1930 to 1955