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Anastasia Afanasieva

Tr. Peter Golub


Svetlana, a patient in the psychiatric ward,
is beyond help. She wants the wolfram to
light up in every light bulb, proposes an eight day week, and points
with her extended pinky, like that very wolfram thread,
at my face:

‘Augustine. His name will be — “Augustine”;
at this time in the empty offices
the tired compote air
is immovable,
while the canvas men present
warm pearl rings
to velvet women
in his name

First, light the wolfram! ‘ uneasy waiting, what have I made you do;
Your electric crack echoes through me every time.
As I brush my palm from Natasha’s brow down to her pubes,
what shifts knock inside me, when my hand and breast hang above her,
and I enter with an inexpressible audacity,
with a melting orphanhood?

“The voices in my head fall silent with Augustine.
Svetlana continues with a careful playfulness.
The voices in my head are grounded demons
running their snouts over the cranium’s lattices,
which unwillingly serve them as a brunette cradle.

Rise, rise, wolfram! ‘

...a recalcitrant lust, what have a made you do,
Your electric crack echoes through me every time.
When I connect to
slow, deep, rhythm...
What ignorance dies inside me, when my forehead
sticks to Natasha’s thin clavicle
and I feel myself tricked, when I think,
that she — like me — is merely a thin thread
of electricity?

‘Augustine,’ Svetlana adds, ‘doesn’t impose himself, because
the dust must lift from all the light bulbs
(maybe, it will come off with the heat)
in order for the wolfram to rise unhindered, like the dear sun,
which does not leave with a shot of aminazine.

O, smashy smashy wolfram!’

...a nervous tremor, what have I made you do,
You carefully build inside me until
I begin to cough from the invisible dust, and close my eyes.
The interloper gets teary; I’ll go blind under this light;
our cloud of dust is lifted by the draft,
and flies from the 15th story,
and we heal with open arms, and after
begin to recognize one another
with almost transparent pupils
as if for the first time.

Above the breast, along the skin, the snail of Augustine the fourth
crawls — luminescent —
a bead of sweat

*          *          *

Oranges light up in the sky,
The aerosol clouds have parted.
December, a pharmaceutical night
The palm slips
With a hush, the forehead dry.
I am a human, lost in angina.
Angina of some sort,
In the Latin — stenocardia.
Stenocardia, in Russian,
is almost a tightened heart.
Open mine up, I woke up from a bad dream —
I’m scared.
There was some woman with an extra ear,
and it was like I was eating flowers-
terrible nonsense.
Are you listening? You’re breathing like you’re asleep.
You don’t hear.
Warm, familiar breathing.
Want to move closer —
And the heart opens —
numbs a bit
The oranges in the sky watch
how you love,
when you are silent.

Candy God

He lays the candy in front of the girl,
inconspicuously placing a cap on her head,
that looks like a clown funnel.
— Open your hand for me deary, here’s a car, a dacha, a cute little son...
Oh don’t be silly, what are you afraid of, the wrapper off, while the needles are still falling off the fir;
and the cap gradually shrinks,
around her skull.

In the city circus Henry the horse dances a waltz.
The resort people dance with soap bubbles in their hair.
I sit in the corner of a discothèque; I don’t dance.
A candy wrapper crinkles in my pocket;
my head throbs and throbs.

...a pale girl by the name of Josephina introduces herself; a splendid mademoiselle,
slender like a pink flamingo; her tenuity
scares me with its porcelain fragility.
I want to put her
in some perfumy salon
that smells of lilies
and place a velvet ribbon around her
with a sign saying: “Don’t touch, not even with your eyes”.
White Josephina on display before the crowd.
A floozy sitting on the pier, dangling her skinny legs, and singing cabaret,
with every note the crowd goes — aaaaaah! —
or is it just the sound of waves.
Suddenly she’s quiet and begins whispering to someone. Thank God!
Jesus when will you leave me alone; I can’t keep down your caramel crumbs,
and your sweet sense of humor.
Treat me to some dry drotaverine or crumbling aspirin.
Take your strudel, united chocolate factories of Kiev, and candied yams and leave me the fuck alone!
Later I imagine the director of the perfume
stand, in the exact same spot, 
where the brave Josephina sat singing; he looks into
the green water, into the clouds of smoke,
he holds a thimble — this is the size her cap has shrunk to;
he counts the coins he could have made on her.
In the meantime the torn foil drifts,
and life is so beautiful, so inexpressibly sweet, and simple!

In the city circus Henry the horse dances a waltz.
Fir needles cover me, while I listen to a voice —
Haggling “Baklava, baklava”
My pulse quickens:
I love sweets, I am insatiable. seems I have grow increasingly delighted,
like a small boy who sees a car and a slingshot by the birthday cake.
And as for me, I’m off to a village full of dachas with
crazy hooting, and irresponsible giddiness.
The bells on my cap ring to the rhythm,
of my flickering heart;
whirlpools open in the solar plexus,
it’s as if you are carried up and off on a rope swing,
and if you’re twelve
bicycles also have the power
to fly.

Next we rescue a kitten from the birch’s heights,
we are written about in the local newspaper;
the photographer takes a picture — my small head,
my huge cap with golden bells,
in one hand ice-cream, and chocolate smeared across my face.
I dream of myself looking over the dusty photo album with the newspaper clipping,
pondering about whether my head is growing unbearably large or if the planet is just shrinking from all sides.

After I feed Henry the horse cherry pudding from my hands,
she hasn’t danced for a long time.
He as always is laying out his candy,
asks them to unwrap it in his mellifluous voice.

He begins — oh, come give us a smile,
it’s a trifling crime
some barely noticeable offense
so what’s it worth to you, come on do it for me, pleassssse
eat up
become somebody!

You know I actually exist,
I am twenty-two,
and I have a headache.
I am braver than an Indian guide,
though more craven than a decadent Aryan.
I fearlessly look into the eyes of cops,
but am scared to call her who isn’t indifferent to me.
Soon it will be time to wear my warm coat,
in which I hide candy, my candy.
In the breast pocket are the same wrappers — worn out foil.
And everything else
Well, it’s only prim young women,
shores of honey.

Anastasia Afanasieva

Anastasia Afanasieva

Anastasia Afanasieva (b. 1982, Kharkov) works as a medical psychologist. She is an editor at LitKarta, and is the author of two books of poetry Poor White Folk (2005) and Voices Say (2007).  Her poetry was short-listed for the Debut Prize (2003), and she is the laureate of the Russian Prize in poetry (2006). English translations of her poems can be found in Cimarron Review and St. Petersburg Review.

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