Transitions №3

Author: Svetlana Bogdanova

Translated by Anna Krushelnitskaya


for Dana Kurskaya

I am old-fashioned.
I love obscure and useless things,
The kind one must wrap
In thick brown paper like they had in Soviet dry cleaners’
So they would not crack when moved,
So they would not lose their tiny bisque knobs, spouts, snouts…
So they would not need to be taken later
To a spiteful porcelain doctor,
To a ruthless buccaneer mocking their wounds,
Mocking me: “Moving again? Now let me make the special potion,
The paste, the cast, the balls of poison
To set them dead still, to make them cleave to the new place
Just like a wife cleaves to a husband! And a little shot for you,
Just for prevention.
It can’t hurt. Next time you’ll know to leave them behind when moving!”
Oh, I am old-fashioned, I give a sob and leave my wounded babies
Under the IV drip…
While they are being revived,
Oiled, painted fresh,
I run to the corner flower stand,
The vegetable stand, the fruit stand…
I fill my market basket
On the occasion of the upcoming healing of my babies,
Soulful babies, yet ever so movingly mute.

I am old-fashioned.
I love men.
I love their predatory movements, their austere faces,
I love their roughish skin and their impossible bodies,
Stocky Mongolians, lithe Egyptians…
Men of the North exude the cool dependability of fish,
Men of the South –  the burning-hot theatricality of cats…
It pleases me to know that just a glance can wake
A fish or a cat.
They are only meant for us, for women…
I am old-fashioned. I prefer to think that way.
Although… I love men’s voices best.
They can’t be heard over the social networks.
You would need to turn off your gadgets
To go outside.
That’s where they ring the clearest, where they are akin to proud organ pipes,
To sturdy branches of the trees of spring.
That’s where they knock and vibrate like horns at a secret pasture,
Where they shock you with their sharp birdlike timbre,
Their hum heavy like a brocade upon the shoulders of women.
I am old-fashioned, I love doing,
Deeds, derring-do concealed in grammatical forms.
Masculine endings
Of Russian past tense verbs,
They tantalize me most with their incompleteness,
Their machismo and – their blankness.
I, a man, said. I, a man, did. I, a man, promised.
So much beauty in that! My poor heart!

I am old-fashioned.
I love rhyme.
Would you say it tugs on my need to be a straight-A student?
Would you say I’m just doing difficult homework,
Searching for a poor rhyme for demon
Which would not be dreaming or freeman, like some pine logs
Whistling thinly in the hearth of Russian lit?
Dear me, why oh why must everything always be squared against those school metaphors,
Why do we suspect and try to detect a grade in all things?
No, of course not. I am old-fashioned and I love rhyme,
Since rhyme gives this milky chaos order.
The fog lifts and a lost old man finds himself
By the gate to his own house, and a boy rushing off to class
Sees unawares and forever remembers
A horse’s muzzle, warm, alive, attentive,
Empty of grades and meaning. Filled with order.
Like in Fellini’s Amarcord.
I am old-fashioned. Chase me out of here, lest my trembling jaw
Should scratch the varnish of your desk.
I might spoil the party by reminding you
That even in minimalism,
Even in a slop bucket,
Even in the so-called reality encrusting over some people’s social network accounts,
Over piles of mass media, over bloggers’ gleaming headlines –
There could be depth. That depth is time.
Down with squeamishness! Take any two clean hands
And sink them elbow-deep in this humus. Feel it: it’s ticking. It’s living.