Before a Thunderstorm
Translated from the Russian by the author
The second campaign started at sunset.
History textbook, 2084
and hard winged Selevkides
freeze in sharp grass,
clutch at the feather reed.
Up there: crawling like infantry -
lilac storm-clouds, over slate, past chimneys.
Those who've glanced at the sun -
fall off the soft stems.
Sedge smells loud,
Crowding over the roofs
- upset, surges: demos.
The pails threaten
Rallying riots of branches
by the fence, by the barrel
(the first rusty leaf
floats in what used to be rain,
a dead bee on board).
the tiny Tavrida
of our sun-burnt lawn.
in the gutter,
the battle starts
by the tall fence.
Let me lose my loop, let a forest path fool me, let me be no good.
Let me lose the way to utter, that is, write, Hi, dear – again.
Let me lose the right to call you by that same Armenian name.
Let there be no mail, nor mailman, no common alphabet, no
letters, paper, stamps. Let me dig canals in monsoonal camps,
cut cedars and build pyramids. Let me sink in sand -
last grain of what used to be you
The child who lingers behind the door
will see when entering the room towards midnight,
how grown-ups have fun alone.
He thought… Just this, no more?
Where is magic, where’s impossible world of mystery
smelling of mom’s perfume
and those boxes way back in the closet,
the endless holiday?
—They are just eating, drinking, talking so loudly,
red eyes on their red faces and
Originally composed in English by the Author
Senior Housing. Irvington, NJ
Those who're younger younger, playing bingo,
those older older - dancing tango,
while the corridor all by itself moves toward
the elevator with no final flight.
Stop - those revolving won't all stop together
as they would want. As we would, too, I gather.
But – look, no, seriously, I'm no coward
—I just don't like this fluorescent light.
I mean that those ticked off and ever grumpy
perhaps won't notice how the space is lumpy
and orbit bumpy, and more space gets vacant,
balloons are lighter, and the rent is low.
All talking stops. We just repeat verbatim.
(Remember - soul? It sounds like Art Tatum,
Body&Soul). But hawks are going vegan
and they descend unusually slow.
I love them, too, look up at them, unfolding
unearthly plumage, wings of an unseen molding,
those walking, sitting, leaking, napping, snooping,
those chewing tasteless gossip, hard to grasp.
40-watt bulb swings, like some hallway prefect –
while present quickly turns into past perfect,
and perfect weather westward rolls, unopened
to that unbearably shining shining clasp.
north jersey, end of january, 5 am, 36°F
a cloud of fine dust
runs up our window
IN HIS HEAVY BOOTS
of a newspaper
right outside the wall
go back to sleep
let it rot in the earth’s crease
between the crumbling plinth and the old gutter
read only by
Spring in the Garden. Demolition in Beijing
The little courtyard in the center of the hutong –
– a wrinkled walnut shell. A visitor would see the shade of the gingko tree branches on the north wall;
on two benches over an ivory chess box old Mr. Wang and Mr Li
– like the two slopes of a false mountain in the center of the garden. The shade moves over the clouded jade pond.
The limestone rock brought all the way from Lake Tai,
weathered out, covered
with smaragdine moss on the south side and silver lichens on the north.
Two canaries swing their cage and flash
between the leaves like sun and shade,
the wrecking dummy swings out
and descends in a
slow calculated fall.
Two trees in the middle:
the winter plum and weeping willow, whose long leaves look
like old men's fingers; Mr Li's embroidered sleeves with golden silk thread –
leaves, and even little eternity eights, suddenly pausing where
the old thread is missing, ripped.
Mr.Wang 's blind fingers touch the ivory chariot and slightly push it forward, to the big river; Mr Li
smiles at his horse, turns the hour-glass over, looks up at Mr.Wang.