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Feature: Back From the USSR
Yuri Andrukhovych

Guess Who Was My Guest
translated from the Ukranian by Sarah Luczaj


Hanging the triangle
with Do not disturb, please
on the door
the hotel thief
locks himself into my room.
He is interested in money and jewels.
Me too, to be honest.

It turns out that there are thieves
in this country too.
One of them is looking through the drawers,
my photos, notebooks
(why do I have two – why the hell
have I still not written all my addresses in one?),
he gently goes through the insides of the suitcase,
gently leaves in peace the most intimate things
like for instance the miniature Chrysler
a stupid souvenir from the sponsors.

Then he pulls a Diet Coke out of the bar
drinks it mechanically,
looks at the Cyrillic letters
on my books
and comes to the conclusion that I’m Russian.

spacerI can’t give you anything but love.

spacerBut here too I go too far
Because I can’t even give you love –
except maybe the fraternal kind
which doesn’t come into it.
Not these days.

At the last minute he finds it all,
my just-over four hundred bucks,
two hundred hryvnas are not beneath him either
he probably takes them for Algerian dinars,
he takes the train ticket as well
a return from Kiev to Lviv.
It’ll be really useful to him in that Sweden of his
where there is no Kiev, where there is no Lviv,
where it’s all abroad!

I’m already in the lift,
when he comes out into the corridor,
when he closes the door behind him
when he hangs the triangle on the door handle
this time on the more appropriate side
Please make-up.

We meet near the lift.
Forgive me that I couldn’t give you love.
Buy yourself some heroin for the whole four hundred.



On the international train Chernivci – Przemysl,
on the stretch between Frankivsk and Lviv
immigrant workers
from Kolomyja
count yesterday’s planes over America
out loud

Eleven planes, a whole

In my mind, I join in
In my mind, I bend my fingers.

The first two fucked the World Trade Centre,
two more hit the Pentagon.
That’s four.

The fifth fell in the trees of Pennsylvania.
(Maybe under those pines that
I last embraced in June?)

One more over Chicago.
And one in Los Angeles.

That’s seven. But where are the other four?
Are they still flying? Shot down?
Did they explode in the sky? And what about Las Vegas?

And where was Mulder and what was Sculley doing?
And why didn’t Bruce shield any of the pilots’ cabins
with his own body,
out of eleven, not one of them?
And why didn’t Mel, or Chuck, or anyone else,
not to mention Nick Cage or Arnold,
join the action, pouring with blood,
half a second before the catastrophe
break the capsules, pull the handle
reach the detonator
with the tips of their fingers…?

The most terrible thing – when the heroes are helpless.
The saddest – when the rescue workers don’t rescue.
Oh God, you, at least, rescue us:
and that childish America, and all of us, who are on our way
and those who are at home, and even those madmen...

As long as it fits in with your plans.


Without You

Once more, fuck it, the radio, television, press.
The leaders, like leaders: all bandits.
The last ones were at least afraid, and these are no better.

I’d forbid the days to pass without you,
their accounts are so pitiful – you don’t come,
you’re not here in the morning, not even in the mirrors,
you don’t come in the afternoon with your cosmetics bag, vagina,
armpit, skin, smell, apple –
what am I supposed to do between the afternoon and the evening?

In the evening you don’t come, just the same.
I want to know what happened.
Maybe you were coming here
maybe they chased you, they definitely raped you.
They couldn’t have not raped you.

All that radio, television, press.
A day without you – my useless loneliness.
I lie under the ceiling, getting older.
Nothing happened anywhere, you’re not here.

A few armed conflicts,
a few traitors on the screen.
The dollar went up,
the Russian rouble was neither bought nor sold.


I Wanna Woman

Today they were talking about that pervert again.
The heat-wave brings herds of women to the river,
all showing parts of the body, without exception,
with a greater or lesser degree of openness
and lack of attention.
Some are shaved under the arms,
others have bruises on the thighs.

“Watch out, that guy’s sitting there again” –
warned a grandmother with her goats,
pointing at the willow bushes –
as if it were our problem.
Yes, as if it were us he were spying on with binoculars
and quickened breath.

We’re always ready to chase him off with batons
and a whistle.
Or, if that’s the way it goes, we’ll break his skull
with an axe or
poke his eyes out with skewers
just let him try!

But – you can be sure –
even after that
without binoculars, with empty eye sockets,
he’ll creep, despite everything, back into the bushes,
sniff the hot body of the air,
mould out of it wet women for spying-on
and groan, and hum
a song he heard that morning on breakfast radio:

“We needed that heat so much…”

A few more weeks – and August will end.
A few more tries – and it opens, the abyss.


Just In Between’s a bit like hotel
rooms –
you have to leave by midday,
so we shut the door,
run downstairs
and hand the key in at reception.

But what about the rooms?
What happens to them without us? What happens
to the tangled sheets, that mess,
all those towels,
the ash in the ashtrays?

Do gusts of wind from the window
still blow it?
Does the tap still drip
over the bath? Does
the sweaty mirror brighten at last?
What can you see in it?

(as the Classics would proclaim:
Oh, what I’d give
only to see
what happens to a room
that I’ve left forever!

Of course, the chambermaid will appear
to wipe away the slightest trace
of us, as if we had never been there.
And she’ll succeed.

Obviously, afterwards
other others will come
and be allocated the room.

But what happens in the time between?
Between our leaving and the appearance
of the chambermaid?
In the hotel room
where we lay so close the two of us
breathed so close?



Yuri AndrukhovychYuri Andrukhovych was born in 1960 in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine. Co-founder of the popular literary performance group "Bu-Ba-Bu" (Burlesque-Bluster-Buffoonery), he has published four poetry collections, five novels and three collections of literary essays which have had a great impact on readers in Ukraine. He is the laureate of four prestigious international literary awards, including the Leipziger Buchpreis zur Europäischen Verständigung (2006).

Sarah Luczaj, British writer and psychotherapist, living in rural Poland since 1997. Her chapbook, An Urgent Request, appeared in 2009 from Fortunate Daughter Press. Her work has appeared in the American Poetry Review, Poetry International and Modern Poetry in Translation, amongst others. She has translated the selected poems of Polish poet Halina Poświatowska and Songs for a Dead Rooster by Ukrainian writer Yuri Andrukhovych.


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