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No. 8-9

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Boris Slutsky 

Translated from the Russian by Julia Istomina  

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German Woman

Spoon, mug and blanket.
The summons held only this. 

óI donít want it.  I wonít go to the station
with the blanket, spoon and mug.
These things are a warning, and
they threaten vast disaster. 

Iíll send the warning to the devil.
I wonít go. óSo spoke on that day
in October of the fortieth year
the daughter of some Swab or Goth,

in plain talk a German woman; she
was liable then to eviction.

The entire German village
was evacuating.  Whatís to be doneóitís war.
In the beginning everyone gathered
the blanket, spoon and mug,
irrigated the pillow with tears,
sorted through all possibilities:
óWonít go! (with German stubbornness)
Let them roll me out by a tractor!
Nowhere!  Never!  Not for anything!

Meanwhile reliably hidden
in a cloud of smoke:
     a Kazan station;  
like a pump, it sucked up extras
from Moscow and nearby borders,
because someone told, 
because someone commanded it. 
This was all carried out quickly, 
as the yellowish square of the summons
of every German whitened.

The summons held only three words:
spoon, mug and blanket.
But, covering the bed with the blanket,
hiding the spoon and mug into the pantry,
the German woman decided not to open up
to anybody, not for anything on earth,
tough broad she was.

So what do you think?  She didnít open,
didnít go, didnít speak, 
didnít make a noise, didnít burn a light, 
didnít snore, didnít light the chimney. 
People thoughtóshe must have died.

óI was born in this city,
and in this city I will die:
Iíll quiet, go dumb, go deaf,
the regional force wonít find me.

As if from a diving board, jumping from fate,
she wintered the entire winter,
picked mushrooms in the summer,
sold junk ďon the down lowĒ
and rented out corners of her apartment.
And in fact, to me.

Just so
You wonít doubt this,
behind the husbandís portrait were kept
the documents.  Among them, the yellowed
square of that summons.

I churned it in my hands:
nothing about trains or
chases.  Three words stood:
spoon, mug, and blanket.

 

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