No. 6


Elena Ushakova  

Translated from the Russian by Julia Istomina  

* * * 

Does certainty really contradict imaginations, the questions
To the chronology of events uncancelled?
And disturb, doubtful adventures, and wasps 
Fly from fantastical myths into realistic dreams. 

Something childish lies in our knowing — a puzzlement,
How history with myth is intertwined.  Hippocrates
Was the scion of gods in the eighteenth (so!) generation, 
Repeat “great — great” that many times in a row unerring!

The son of Asclepius-god was also a doctor and under Troy —
How could it be said? — he served, army doctor Mahaon. 
With what did the butterfly, as if in award, deserve
Such a title?  Mindless, chose its balcony. 

I love these half-insinuations, accidental ties, 
All, on which we fall into thought and labor, — ‘there
Began’, the beginning echo sounds in every phrase,
And not for nothing Mandelstam it loved and coddled. 

And things at hand, isn’t it so, can sometimes be volumetric, 
And guard a surprising, much promising look,
From what is brought into this world, half-shadowed labyrinth, 
Toppled into the sky, that speaks with the soul. 

And alarming, and joyous to live under the playful watch
Of curious gods, entrusting the Damocles sword.
…Once more an earthquake, how reported to us in a brisk,
Level tone, cast out — but of this, I am silent. 


Beloved calm!  But how it is created!
With what, do you think, is the assembled line filled? 
Even if a calm look is directed to the stars —
Not pursed lips, not a squeezed, mechanically, fist —
The soul of whoever stained the paper tensed, as if
Tore! — and the line is full with memorable worries, 
In worry, continues to be external, 
The unsinkable runs in a little bubble from the bottom…
And if you want to know, he stubbornly returned
To here, into the green hall from the shadow of the decades of Orpheus.
O, how he would be astonished by his blunder, 
To have found out the frequency of the sad reminders of her!

* * * 

But music? — You said in reproach good nature…
Music exists, exists and above us!
Only forget finally these rhythmic swings, and is unnecessary,
lazily in tact, to rap sporadically with fingers and pencils.
Ah, I’d have liked to wet you, like a tough biscuit, in searing tea,
so in these poems you could hear the cavatina of a request, arioso of a joke,
and a shy question, the chromatic playful scale of a stressed language,
and confusion in a crowd of interjections, hiding beneath the appearance
     of hurry!

Nice try!  A self-important editor walked in, claiming of all sound,
asserting: “Tricks are not needed, and here a new genius will appear…”
And this is how I see it, him standing in the doorway, jutting arms out
(To the hunter runs the beast), briskness not interfering with an avid  
And to him, whom we can’t catch, whom we won’t recognize
in manuscripts, strewn about office desks,
worse, than Wells’ Invisible, in bandages and dark glasses, —
     we know, 
how he was killed, poor fellow, which animalistic method upon the
snow… but we found everything, even in tragedy!
By the prints we found him torn about, like nerves!
We sympathize, empathize, but are also jealous, isn’t it so, in part:
he created something new — was first, the first!




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