Manuscript Found by Natasha Rostova During the Fire

I will try to live on earth without you.

I will try to live on earth without you.

I will become any object,
I don’t care what—

I will be this speeding train.
This smoke
or a beautiful gay man laughing in the front seat.

A human body is defenseless
on earth.

It’s a piece of fire-wood.
Ocean water hits it.
Lenin puts it on his official shoulder.

And therefore, in order not to suffer, a human spirit
inside the wind and inside the wood and inside the shoulder of a great dictator.

But I will not be water. I will not be a fire.

I will be an eyelash.
A sponge washing your neck-hairs.
Or a verb, an adjective, I will become. Such a word

slightly lights your cheek.
What happened? Nothing.
Something visited? Nothing.

What was there you cannot whisper.
No smoke without fire, they whisper.
I will be a handful of smoke
over this lost city of Moscow.

I will console any man,
I will sleep with any man,
under the army’s traveling horse carriages.

A Still Life

Saturday morning. Schubert. Frosya torments the slipper.
White hydrangea. (Remember, as in Sapunov?)
I lie on the floor between dolls, small hats, t-shirts.
I stare at you, and close my eyes.

Music for performance over water? Over waters?
The German rhythm stops
       like a member of the National-Socialist party in a frightened mouth.
You sit by the computer, covered with light ice
covered with your porcelain beauty.

And waters of Schubert like thousands of tiny mice boil in your mouth.
I’ve been looking at you for three years, like a maniac at the
corpse’s cameo
waiting—the policemen will arrive—they’ll begin to yell
beat me with a shoe, and I will lay quietly on the floor.
Know nothing. Hear nothing. Nothing.
The white hydrangea, a fistful of fireworks
in the sky, as if
       some celestial mole labors in the sky.
—Mishenka, it is too bright?
            —It is not too bright.
Bubbles of Schubert. Tears bubbling in my mouth.

Polina Barskova is widely considered one of the best Russian poets under the age of 40. She is the author of several prize-winning books of poetry in Russian. She was born in Leningrad and currently lives in Massachussetts where she teaches at Hampshire College.

Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former USSR, and came to the USA in 1993. He is the author of Dancing in Odessa, which won the Whiting Writers Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters Metcalf Award, and was named the “Best Poetry Book of 2005” by ForeWord Magazine.


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