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Feature: Back From the USSR
Marjana Savka

Poems for Oxi Lu

Translated from the Ukrainian by Judith Baumel and Askold Melnyzcuk



Shut me. Shut me in.
Hide me behind the concrete walls of silence
The vibrating shell of the window
Behind the cold angels
The line of the one legged compass
Which marks the child’s brief faith
In the reality of life.
I am a butterfly.
Bits of pollen still on my wings.
I’ll find my stinger for the opening of the heart.
I know.
These damp—come now—
Continental embraces
Will not reach me here.

Under the suffocating blanket of dreams
Of my Motherland
Under the window of
sweet exhaustion
snuggle into me
my unhappy
Let me make of you a pipe
And play tunes of love.
For the first tune, I’ll laugh.
For the second, I’ll weep.
For the third, I’ll break it…



The light plays on the ocean
Like cheeks burning with shame
You stand on the ruins of Athens
Or the illusion
Of Athens
Cigarette in your manicured fingers
As if they were two boats
Tacking to your tongue.
You stand in a black dress
With a red flower
And you make a damn beautiful actress
Today you are Mephistopheles
Pity there is no Faust
Whom you might tame
Or teach
Your damn beautiful language



Morning passes dryly without tears
It’s a ritual
That cannot change
Living as though packing a suitcase
All the earlier warnings left
Inscribed in these movements and exercises
The wind of the harbor
Blows the morning’s colored
Glow into the sails.



When we were learning to speak
When we were learning to speak
Like so
Like silk
Draping the body
When we were learning to tango
When we were learning to tango
Under the moon
Bigger than a record disc
For us, the city
Was just the city
Distant enough and near enough
To not throw us off the rhythm.
“I miss you”
I am thinking of
A foreign as yet unspoken word
Right here on these lips
And my own throat
That’s the way things are set up here
That’s the way things are set up here
Speaking like silk
Draping the body
Have you learn to pronounce


And even when we pair
We stay alone
In the shine of the violet moon
In the shadow of the she-wolf.



Marjana SavkaMarjana Savka was born in in Kopytchyntsi, and currently lives in Lviv where she founded Old Lion Publishers. A former actress and journalist, she is a poet, children's writer, translator, and editor. She has been a Fellow of the William Joiner Center at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. "Poems for Oxi Lu" is from her most recent book, The Shadow of the Fish.


Judith Baumel is a poet, critic and translator. She is Associate Professor of English and was Founding Director of the Creative Writing Program at Adelphi University. She blogs at Her most recent book of poetry is The Kangaroo Girl.

Askold Melnyzcuk is a novelist, critic, essayist, editor and translator. He founded Agni magazine and Arrowsmith Press. He has taught at Harvard University, B.U. and currently at University of Massachusetts, Boston. His most recent novel is The House of Widows, an Editor’s Choice selection of the American Library Association’s Booklist as one of the “distinguished fictions of 2008.”


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