Transitions №3

Author: Larissa Joonas

Translated by Anton Yakovlev

* * *

In the glorious city of saint petersburg
in a pie shop on seventh soviet street
a grateful—or so I hope—reader
asked me why my poems
were so aggressively pessimistic
full of premonitions of war
of collapse and of the kind of abyss
that turns you into an abyss yourself
if you gaze into it

after all I live in a country
full of rivers of milk
or rather buttermilk
with shores of kissel
or rather manna custard.

And so I look around—and indeed
I see all this milky abundance
and pink manna foam
seeping from the barrels
of forty-eight different kinds of weaponry
aimed directly at me.

I have copious experience feeling like someone
sacrificed on the altar of an idea
whether magnificent or insubstantial
for instance the idea of enriching oneself
the idea of equality or inequality

I recognize the stamp of a slaughterhouse
even before the flames are stoked
for the branding iron.

And so the only thing left to do
is to unintelligibly mumble in the pie shop
before kissel is crammed down my larynx
with the speed of an explosive bullet.

* * *

Sooner or later they’ll tell you that you’re a nobody

so what
that could even be a compliment
if you’re compared to someone great
this means at least someone made the comparison
and you didn’t quite measure up

oh well
we’re all great sometimes
in relation to someone else
I’m much more conversant in matters of cybersecurity
than the cat Urmas sitting on my lap

but if we speak of love for humanity
then, compared to Urmas
I’m clearly a nobody.

* * *

Sometimes I work a lot and don’t sleep much
and I start to forget my purpose
why and to what end
was I thrown into this city of eternal winter
covered in snow
on the edge of infinite light
in a meaningless whirlwind of minor events

what should I be doing
who should I be saving
in the name of what forgotten ideas
who sent me
without teaching me to perfection
without giving me unique qualities
finally forgetting about me
leaving me at the mercy
of my own angular body
my limited intelligence
and circumstances unconducive to achievements

if only I could remember

meanwhile, not a step aside
just in case it’s me
who really holds up this world.

* * *

Carrying on in this reality is exhausting
you come out ready for every kind of battle
into this gray fog of daily strife
you walk on dim moist hard icy ground
the smoke (warmed by love) lights up, swirls
rises, hugs the low clouds.
What can you believe in on the side of the earth
where separation is more important than unity
and suspicion more powerful than friendship
where logic short-circuits on the very first word
not reinforced by mutual pleasantries
where unacceptable recklessness (warmed by love)
becomes the only pass into the real world.
Why why are simple words no longer sufficient
why is revealing the truth same as a cheap striptease
could we really (warmed by love) still return to the roots
hoping for a (warmed by love) (warmed by love)
                                                                  (warmed by love) world