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This piece is about 14 printed pages long. It is copyright © Peter Golub, Eugenia Ritz
and Andrei Sen-Senkov and Jacket magazine 2008.
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Two Russian Poets, translated by Peter Golub

Eugenia Ritz and Andrei Sen-Senkov

Peter Golub is a Moscow born poet and translator. His translations can be found in Circumference, St. Petersburg Review, Cimarron Review, and other journals. A bilingual edition of his poems, My Imagined Funeral, was published in 2007. He teaches at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he is finishing his MFA in poetry. You can read his interview with Russian editor, critic and poet Dmitry Kuzmin in this issue of Jacket

Eugenia Ritz

Translated by Peter Golub


This thing can’t even
Call itself by its own name.
Was this not what we had
Responding to every ring?
The hidden sun floats in a cradle
Simultaneously from all sides.
Touch any surface, and every point
In the heart of the hand as to
A cramp or illness
Now in December buds open
And even the grass is green.
Was it not this we were divined
From the beginning.
From the first to the last breath
Premature winter, median autumn
In the metro is written: “No Exit”
And in the underground passage
–pomegranates, mandarins, persimmons.


Because the current grey, opaque January
Is pronounced with a colloquial “a”
It becomes, to some extent, local.
So it has a different inventory,
But like the rest–put together from old scrap.
They do not build from glass and cement anymore,
That is they do, and more than ever,
But it is outside the frame of the eye.
Inside the frame–representing all four age groups–
Only wet creatures.
Have you cached something inside yourself?
It is not going to fly. Unless one year counts for a hundred.
The last, which is also the first, season
Catches us in half decent postures,
In blind and unappealing cloths,
Buttoned by both centuries from top to bottom.
Sometimes it is white, now grey, but never motley.
There is nothing you can beg from it, even if
You bend over twice, when once would be enough.


The islands, floating underground,
Are they not drowning in shouts of down with!
Which sound like long live!
A trolley crawls
Taking someone home.
Islands, breathing red
From their volcanoes, like from angina throats.
Water flows down like fat
From the local, low and lifeless, hills.
And the planet hunched, and all the cities
In allergic smoke and asthmatic bluing.
The underground islands–not more than water
Or further than everywhere.
You watch as landscape falls on landscape,
But only one shines in your eye;
Something unheard squeaks in the coulisse,
When at the time the sky turns out incomprehensibly, below.
Only the island denizens, who are not small,
Many might be no smaller than an ant,
Keep their inside corners warm by breathing
Hidden breath.


Pieces of words flutter here and there,
A tiny cake of soap.
Like rags and ravens, it hangs from the shrubs
–The unavailing empyrean.
The train runs through white air
And settles a red butterfly inside the breast.
A look down at the stars
Like those beneath the skin
–A lot of lonely water.

And tokens jingle in the pocket.
A small airy muzhik
Stands like a guard,
By the body on the border.
His lips pursed in a
The air, in circles, parts.
I do not see it.
In fact I see no thing,
For it is very evening,
And only streetlights
Can make out the night
Without straining too much
With their gold spectacles.
The snow
And person
Go underground to cross the street.
A corridor of air stretches along;
It seems like only rosin smells like this.
February stretches between ribs.
The damp soft heat
Of the McDonald’s by the metro,
Where fingers melt against the glass
And light and beauty cover top to bottom.
When for the final time I am beseeched,
Before descending down the stairs beneath the ice,
I’ll peak into the golden bright McDonald’s,
That’s filled with hidden lamps.
Quicker the sight will light and warm,
And probably not quite slip through the hands.


Well, what would change if you had learned
English instead of German?
The seagulls just as always
Fly over the local dumps.
You have no talent for it anyhow
And so, instead of entering the Foreign Language
Institute, it would be better
To discontinue the whole lot;
And all asperity, all clumps
Will be secreted now in effulgent
Mean sheets inside yourself,
Clogging in one taut knot.
You think, you’d have emerged a style
Like those who entered there?
No walk, nor breadth of frame
Has ever changed from such emersion.
Better to lie
And huddle knees
Like caustic muteness, to the chest.

Old Coat

When we were out buying my coat
You anxiously chain smoked
We must have walked the tight
Bazar a hundred times
Back then people wore thin overcoats
“But you know that I can’t”
Or fake fur coats
That ripen red in every stall
There was a motley group of gypsies
The cold and flimflam lottery
Your hands, your palms of fragile glass
Threaten to break if only touched
It is not clear what we were looking for
In this monotony of imports
...Today memory is unbearable on the body...
Is deluding from the button cracks


Here again, they were selling bed sheets
Yellow stars on a blue background.
Too bad they don’t know prison slang
Wandering hucketers, autumnal remains.
The other day a neighbor had her fortune read:
“Death sits in your hair,” the other said.
“Let me,” she said, “Scare it away.”
And you can’t get away from her;
She got away with two gold earrings
A wedding ring
An almost new bedspread.
Of course she vanished
After that
The neighbor’s head went grey.
And death just sat as it has always done,
Plaited a nest atop her head as in a tree,
Lined it with bits of hair and wool.
And when her children hatch
She’ll feed them midge and worms.

God, who doesn’t gad down there by the perron;
We ought to get an intercom, a metal lock.


In the coatroom
The wayward child
Steals change
From pockets
No less
Twice a day.
It’s casual,
The games for money.
The needles of the questions
No better than another torture:
Once you
Pick up some speed
Where will you sit
(Or not)
And speaking
God knows what...
The cell
Is unremarkable and narrow
Where he, the clever rascal,
Rummages through threadbare clothes.
There’s not much profit here,
The unerasured coin
Of language.
The feast
Holy and mute
And suddenly
The hasty abdicated word
A shiny coin at the high heel.

Eugenia Ritz

Eugenia Ritz

Eugenia Ritz is a poet. She graduated from Nizhny Novgorod State Pedagogical University (NNSPU) with a PhD in philosophy. She has published two books of poetry: Return to Ease, and City Large. City Pained. She lives in Nizhny Novgorod.


Andrei Sen-Senkov: Four poems

Translated by Peter Golub

A Pack of Gitanes

          1st cigarette

the red Gypsy dress
is sewn according to the schema of the tomato metro
in which
the sardines use the ring line

without one transfer

          2nd cigarette

at the end of the film Tabor Goes to Heaven
all the main characters
are caught in a rainstorm

the wet sky squeals
the Gypsy God’s voice
painfully breaks

          3rd cigarette

the year nineteen forty-four

the extermination of the gypsies is coming to an end

something very wrong crawls in the dark
under the European trench coat
of lying nationality

          4th cigarette

Gypsies consider the lost homeland
the island Tsi
island no island
Indian spoon
bent by a lover of tea
in sugar water

          5th cigarette

the Council of People’s Commissars
made a decree
“concerning the transfer of the peripatetic gypsies to
a working and settled life”

October 1, 1926
on the editorial page of local newspapers
printed horses trotted by the Gypsy men

...and then, walking past a construction site
I gave the rest of the pack to a guest-worker

the Moldavian workers
hide from the policemen

they’re not scared
it’s just a kind of game–
sharpening their nationality
to the point
that it begins to crumble
on Moscow’s uniforms

The pack still contained: a cigarette with a Polish director Andrzej Wajda, whose last name from the Gypsy is translated as “boss”; a cigarette with a picture of eleven Gypsies, who during WWII received Hero of the Soviet Union medals; a cigarette with mustalaiset (that is what the Finnish call their Gypsies); a cigarette with Japan: the only country in the world without Gypsies; and a cigarette with the marvelous male name: Dufunya.

Barbie’s Tender Clothing


under her dress
you can sometimes
find the woman
who later causes
to kiss the soft paws
of toy Soviet gynecologists


the latest Barbie
is made of such tender plastic
her underwear
leaves a mark
that is
of course
if for a prolonged time
the doll sits uncomfortably on the lap of a stranger


inside this woman
is that
for which
the policemen of small American cities
get paid


in the complete Barbie set
is a tiny object
the use of which
is not obvious

when you finally figure out
what it’s for
the doll
grabs the object
from your hands


she never came to me
in a dream
those 1970’s Soviet dolls did
with their honest
innocuous fingers
always grown together

Hilton. Taba. Egypt.


an Arabian breakfast
is made up of
two cups of coffee
(the first large and the second smaller)

one drinks only the large one
the small one (called al fazira)
is for incessant turning in the hand
during morning conversation

during the seven day trip
I never found out
where they pour
the coffee left in the second cup


the hotel manager
shows photographs of his six sons

the first four have regular muslim names
Ahmed, Abraham, Ali, Mohamed

the name of the fifth sounded somehow unfamiliar

I ask
–what does it mean?

he replies
–the last son

–and how is the sixth one called? I asked surprised.

he gives the name and then translates
–not the last


in one of the infinite Cairo haberdasheries
I saw an instrument with an impossible number of strings

to the question
–how many are there?
the merchant says that he isn’t sure
but definitely around one hundred
it turns out that each master
has his own signature number of strings

when I asked him if I could try it out
I received a rather stern answer
–this one is only for women

after naming the instrument
he called the bow by the same name


a fish jumped on the shore
she made the noise
of a tiny vacuum

after about a minute
he broke


across the bay
a good view of Jordan

could be a girl’s last name
into which a man is about to enter


contemporary Egyptians play with ancient Egypt
according to constantly changing rules
(they change so much
that it becomes impossible to tell
who is playing)

Perry Mason’s Splinters

for Valery Nugatov


I was investigating the theft of a saphire
while describeing the saphire
Mr. Thompson, the jeweler who’d been robbed
said that if the stone had a face
its profile would be impossible to photograph


Ann Mcdarmont threw herself out
of a window on the 20th floor the police are convinced
it’s suicide her beautiful body
takes up even more space now it is there and there
and even there


they killed the insolvent-writer accidentally confusing him
with someone in the dark I knew him a little that Isaac
one time at the bar “Money” he read his
poems I remember there was something about a black beak
a meat berry with a bird pit inside


second week without a job the city has emptied
regular summer July stars glow so bright
that they hurt not only the eyes but the exposed
parts of the skin


a policeman was shot yesterday
in the back of the head very much like an execution
rumor has it that it was done by the boys
from limping Peta Pete’s band
Peta Pete is a famous guy after killing
his limp switches sides they say
that today he was limping on his left side again


it seems like I am starting a tryst with a
telephone operator she has such a soft voice it seems
that tiny hands without nails
are inside her throat

Andrei Sen-Senkov

Andrei Sen-Senkov

Andrei Sen-Senkov is a Tajikistan born poet living in Moscow where he works primarily as a doctor. He holds a degree in medicine from Yaroslavl State Medical Academy. Sen-Senkov is the author of five books of poetry and prose, including Dancing with a Taller Woman, and The Small Hole Resistance. In 1998 he won the Turgenev Festival Prize for short prose, and in 2006 his poetry was short-listed for the Andrei Bely Prize.

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