No. 8-9


Aleksei Purin  

Translated from the Russian by Julia Istomina  


Shakespearean Bologna


The ring of churches, the splash over the dovecot
flow with a blueness into the window.
With a warm October morning it’s easier to understand
what drew the pagans into Italy. 

Still not having removed the goat-footed overcoat,
they played with the vines of grapes,
and the strange delight of wine comforted them,
Cupid aimed into their chests. 

Thus became the Italians — having fixed
numb, manmade idols
whose spirit entered into their blood and their substance,

conjoining eucharisms with the choir of Roman laws.
and I, a vandal, here lavishly spend lires
on grappa — the crème of Dionysian poisons. 


Allow that towers are disposed to fall — to fall
is not their fate, even if the rumbling of the arcades
of houses comes not from the sounds of birds, 
but the passion of a thousand motorcycles.

And in the count of a hundred thousand — from heat, from rain
from the enemy – are hidden store-front windows,
and you drone, Bologna — a swarm of bees
in grand podestá, sensing the leader!

You’re — in armor.  From a northern country
you carry to the south the signs of ruins,
and obscure, stone dreams. 

The dove eat the lead from a blind wall.
Through visors your sons view the world, 
in the dark of their eyes, melting flame.


During the evening here — a carnival and feast,
and the theatrical temper pleases me:
in you united tens of Helsinors —
you, Bologna, were created by Shakespeare.

You ask, passionate: “To be 
or not to be?” — arcade-playing…
Be!  Be in the form of an overcast heaven —
dip your lips, I beg you, don’t destroy…

Alas, impersonating squires
entrust their curls to plastic orbs —
the motorcyclists, in full-gallop,
cry “arrivederchi” and “prosti.”




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