Transitions №3

Author: Yuri Orlitsky

Translated by Dmitri Manin



Which is which here
Who’s what for
Who’s why

No one here
None of anyone’s business
Nothing doing
Shut the door please,
people are working

A girl munches on a cookie
Composing a haiku

*) FOR NO ONE (Russian)


* * *

A fiery dragon-skin throws itself
over the bald hilltops

Nights like this one are when
in their lonely homes sick people

Short like the stroke of a fiery tail
is the passage from epigraph to epicrisis

Wrap your sorrow in a furoshiki,
carry it to remote mountains
for your mother left there to die

But take care not to die
on your way…


* * *

Companions of old age
fears creep in:

of an unlocked door
and fire left burning,
of a stranger in a dark alley
and a pretty girl across the aisle.

You look away,
hasten your steps,
come back to the locked door

into the mirror



Wonderful are thy deeds, O Lord

To be wondered at
Or about?

I wonder at your deeds:
The many marvels you’ve brought
And keep bringing for the beauty
Of the world…

I wonder about your deeds:
I never tire of being amazed
How strange, how perplexing
This world is, arranged by you
Wonderful are thy deeds, O Lord

To be wondered about
And at


                                     look at all the lonely people

Two orange-vested women
                                      well past forty
Slowly glide up the escalator
                                      wet rags in their hands
Embracing every lampstand
                                      as if it were a lover


* * *

I fear fire

the step
an ancient human made towards
                                              a blaze —

To this day
I can’t repeat it

I fear water

the desperate leap
of a deranged fish
onto the shore —
I’ve resolved to make it

but most of all
I fear people

especially those
who’ve passed through
fire and water