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It is copyright © Andrej Khadanovich and David Kennedy and Valzhyna Mort and Jacket magazine 2008.
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The Even Number
The girl goes shopping.
The girl buys camomile tea,
A packet of twenty teabags.
The girl takes the tea home.
The girl pulls out the teabags one by one,
Telling fortunes — He loves me.
He loves me not. Loves me. Loves me not —
Although she already knows the way it goes
With the even numbers.
But what else can she do?
Once again, all the packets of twenty five
Have been snapped up by other girls.
The Lake School of Poetry
And there was a lake,
The final stop on the city railway.
And there was the sky,
The final stop in his careless dreams,
After six days of travelling in the rain.
And on the seventh day,
There was sun and he saw
How bad the other six had been.
And there were sail boats
And steamships and buoys
With the warning ‘No Swimming Beyond This Point.’
And they were the only two people in the whole world,
Like Adam and Eve or a troubadour and his lady
— except for the seagulls and the speedboats.
And she was topless,
With an apple bulging out
Of the pocket of her fashionable ‘short shorts’.
She looked like a tennis player
Ready for the first serve.
There was no need to call ‘second service’.
I remember when I was a child
I’d try and climb up on my granny’s stove —
And my arms would sink up to the shoulders
In the black sea of sunflower seeds
She was trying to get dried.
I remember when I was older
The seeds were drying really quickly
And my girlfriend wasn’t shy
About tucking in right in front of me,
Hulling them with her teeth,
And a husk would be hanging off her lip,
And didn’t put me off kissing her one bit.
And I was removing it,
Carefully, like a bomb disposal officer,
Because the first touch
Could easily be the last one,
And I was looking forward to the sequel:
On the stove some new seeds
Were almost dry.
That’s why I know
As much as Van Gogh about sunflowers
And about pumpkins
A lot more.
Andrej Khadanovich (b.1973) has been called the most exciting voice in contemporary Belarusian poetry. He teaches foreign literature at the Belarusian State University and also teaches a translation workshop in the Belarusian Collegium. His collections include Letters From Under the Bedspread (2002), From Belarus With Love (2005) and Berlibry (2008); and he is the first Belarusian poet to have issued his own CD Currency Exchange Office which features poetry-and-jazz improvisations with the musician Siarhey Pukst. Khadanovich also writes lyrics for the rock band Indiga and the chansonnier Zmitsier Vajtsiushkevich. He has recently turned to free verse and his work can be called post-modernist in its elaborate word games, use of quotations from classic Belarusian and Soviet poetry and Western rock music and unexpected twists on familiar sayings. Khadanovich also translates poetry from English, French, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian.
David Kennedy is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Hull. His recent publications include the poetry collection The Devil’s Bookshop (Salt, 2007) and Elegy (Routledge New Critical Idiom, 2007). His translation of Part 1 of Max Jacob’s The Dice Cup — in collaboration with Christopher Pilling — was shortlisted for the Weidenfeld Translation Prize 2001.
Valzhyna Mort, born in Minsk, Belarus, is the author of two books of poetry I’m as Thin as your Eyelashes (Logvinov Press, 2005) and Factory of Tears (Copper Canyon Press, 2008). She is a recipient of the Crystal of Vilenica poetry award (Slovenia, 2005) and the Burda poetry prize (Germany, 2008). She has translated Dead Season by the legendary Polish poet Rafal Wojaczek into Belarusian (Logvinov Press, 2006). Her translations of Belarusian and Ukrainian poets into English were published in the anthology New European Poets (Graywolf Press, 2008). She currently lives in the USA.