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Viktor Ivaniv

Tr. Peter Golub

House. From Beneath the Table.
Like a sweet tree
passing over a sleigh
everything seems to be on tiptoe
and viands for piglets
or does it smell of camphor
or are they slashing open pillows
and the backwards windows
sun falling into stomach
I feel sick they opened vinegar
the voices muffled in the noise
but what’s more embarrassing than a bite
where the flea jumps a stitch is moved
they are pulling
that sleigh and paint something
and bless the dream while the skin peels
a whale for a cheap tabernacle
and the fat priest stands in his kiosk
smelling of honey fish wax
and the girl’s button nose spins
spins in her freckled face
there is an English pipe under the table
and angels sit around the heavens
as they chat but they aren’t rude
awaiting death obediently
dad and I lift up our heads
this is our school
we run home down the stairs...
and from the blood
our big eyes open, I am big
but we are shy
after all our blood drips on the boards
here we are with a busted lip
take out a cigarette
we can even smile
eyes closed tight like gold


Before you are the notes taken from a series of conversations between two individuals who, presumptively, could be called “teacher” and “student”; these conversations span the years that began this century. During these conversations the student was given a basic introduction to a series of ideas, which again presumptively can be classified according to the following themes: muses of fever, sympathetic quality of things, Arabian numerals, protocols of Zionist sages, Democritus’ atoms, Euclidian space, cholera-morbus, principles of prosody, disparities between the Gregorian and Julian calendars, organizational schemas of digestion, moods of panic, Albanian, circulation of animal spirits, interpretation of the Tarot symbols: Sun and Moon, Nietzsche’s views on music, principles of envisaged harmony, and Jewish theatre. However, the enthusiastic student was unable to fully comprehend these ideas at the time, and in order to prepare the memory of his teacher for posterity (who was one of the hommes illustres of the time), the student tried to versify these ideas to aid his memory, so that he could issue the work in due time.

In the process of this endeavor the student’s mind grew untidy, which led him to contribute much of his own material; thus, he left such a comical image of the lyric hero that one cannot mark this peculiarity without a smile. Today’s reader is well aware of the fact that many contemporary poets work on the radio, where they lead various shows for the benefit of the inquisitive. Being conscious of this fact let us make the following analogy: the student in question had his own “radio” in his head. Receiving various signals, while reacting to external interference; he never ignored a single event that touched him: behaviors of those surrounding him, intrigues of Zoilus, plots of maniacal governments, etc. The collision of these is the fruit, which are the present poems you have in front of you.

Finally. As the student aspired to emulate his teacher in every possible way, he adopted the teacher’s manner into an address to a girl, with whom he was secretly and hopelessly in love, for whom he tried to take on the droll pose of spiritual pedagogue.


Sweet singing in the illuminated forest could be heard
Lemeshev’s voice rolled out from somewhere far away
a gust of wind carried and turned the words, the canary
echoed to himself as if from beneath the tomb
the rhythmic patter of a bouncing ball
mixed with a singing as if
as if from a single throat
these were the bird children running forward without looking
or returning to the goalpost pulling back their regiments
every one of them not only volodya pingin
as if unaware he was standing on the uliginous bottom
a snake quickly slithered through the ranks of swooning boys
it could have appeared like this
if someone had watched them through a keyhole
the patter of the ball would have stopped immediately like a cuckoo’s
call during the days of wearisome accounts
only those will understand me once they have
seen and heard the cry of the anxious canary in flight 
with eyes diverted to the ground the children tightly huddled
down where afflicted with horrible hiccups volodya
crawled on all fours from the earth
the next morning I passed through crude glares
when Volodya and Vladyka two names that occurred to me
I participated in the procession and sent the pioneers off with my glance
as they carried peonies for their leader in a funeral frame 

At the Hairdresser’s

At the newly opened salon
I sat glued to the mirror
obedient like a lamb while she wet
the scissors in the water I watched

plucked according to a strict logic
I wanted to open my hand and look through the fingers
my hair glistened in the light, Poluektov,
and I couldn’t tear myself away

as if I were crying over a plate
the hairdresser improved me
her reflection distorted
as she stood over me breathing

she duly trimmed my locks in just the right places
I thought she was caressing my with a fiddler’s bow
I was dressed up like a catholic priest
and like a new magazine walked outside

my collar itched there was something in my eye
but I still read the names of streets and the signs written in marker
I watched the day with an open fly
and it shined like a wievemacher

I was at the salon were the floors were brilliant!
where father Voitila’s/hair is cut/by clippers
on the photograph we would have left our bodies
but the sun gilds the back of his head

Sun Funeral


A child’s autumn the lindens’ nigrescence
pick up this stone
proud soul elated heart
and the soft dirge of mommies

Send him into the water and count to a hundred
what wish do you wish, go ahead
why is the heart so happy
just into these eyes don’t look anymore

But do not swear in the pigeon grumble of heaven
which is higher than the plumate crown of trees
it always seems as if the autumn funeral sun
is winking to you


Suddenly the tender May became the most bitter holiday
Dust turns in the somnolent air
Is vinegar really a better treat than blood
But I’ve already forgotten this taste

You like a poor gypsy child
kiss the hand touching the earth
in the shadows of wet banners
we lit the memorial sun

A lit paper boat
sinks in the cloud of the hot heavens
tender May or glassy October
we bury our brides today


A handsome teen looks in the mirror
he cuts his face with a razor
still as if he were seeing a fiend
you whisper confused: fuck your mother

What will you say O gruesome mirror
your face like the radio turns into interference
if you suffer from asthma
don’t smoke! is it a cough or a laugh — amen.

Your palm grows sanguine with stigmata
are you really going to sacrifice five
of your fingers not guilty of anything?
a thought is stuck: I’ll emasculate myself


Today you picked a red poppy
and now it is in your hair
it is hot you move to the hammock
you will not get lost in the voices

The sun has baked your head
how nice it would be to nap
to warm the window in the tram
blow on the silver spoon

A swarm of children’s daydreams moves
to this spoon full of fish soup
spread perfume with the hand
what to do with this heat


Today I inform your highness
of the thoughts in the summer night
and I will speak of child mortality
of the crimes committed by juveniles

In all it’s only two hundred souls lame and twisted
you’ll grow enchanted by the glass skeletons
who died warmed by the sun
and burned alive in the furnaces

In the middle of the plaza they placed a bronze boy
he smiles a ruby sunset pink —
the proximity of this meeting showed us —
the auric boy he hurries to us


Reread the novel Anna Karenina
you’ll cease to be yourself concerning the effeminate adolescent
there is a story in a Russian school book
in which a sin was named the source of bliss

Cat meowing — this infant cry
will sweetly cause my heart attack at night
but in the head again I hear a jingle
a girl’s and mother’s mellifluous laughter

It lulls the time mechanically
hands you your grade alone
just try to fool the watch around it —
the blessed meek who dream of murder


In the small chapel you press your sleepy ear
against the grate the fragrance of a rose
the old confessor shivered
the nightingale sang passing midnight

The cries of the watch carried
on the towers to the fourth guard
large eyes in thick glasses
while you sleepless mirages apprehended

“The sycophants and lechers all about you”
but the chiromancer’s incantation broke
duress with shadow, lamp, and luna
the frightened infanta walks into the bedroom


You pray at the sacred image
keeping the candle with your palm
foul language making it into your prayer
as if about to whistle in the house of god

And with a gaze full of reproach the saint
will watch and fill the soul with shame
and if you think that you sin less than they
then you sin twice against our lord the savior

No matter where you hear a sinful word
it hits the heart and rings inside the mind
a two headed chimera stands before you
make sure the candle doesn’t give off smoke


And so the reading turns into a migraine
from the first letters of the holy book
from his first spit He made the noise
so now you know they lied to us when we were children

They said that He was never human
that he had never made the markings in the sand
the cock crows and you should stand come on
despite the veins you see upon your brow

And let your blood turn into iodine and salt
and let the Adam’s apple burst inside your mouth
be ripped apart by Dionysius’ maenads
or better swallow your tongue


Last week they were engaged
last week they looked each other in the eye
as if they were awaiting the password
and then that week came to an end

In the new week there are nine days
your braid of hair is cut
there are no white or matrimonial sheets
the sheets hang over the mirrors

Why your stare so sinister
as if she wasn’t ever here
but you will catch Eurydice’s glance
near the gates of Hades


You asked for me to watch the ships with you
when we constructed weirs out of flesh
we were a pair of hopeless kings
our mouths covered in metal wire
And after that you convalesced like saint
commanding with a mighty hand
while I did wander through the city blind
asking for alms from matrons

And time has passed leading us to the Eve
and the singing carried from a maid
the children exited the communes
and at Your gates the police met me


Christian beauty — St Parasceva
the heart again is full of exultations
during the time of Pentecost
and we will never be deceived

Myre smolders under the icon
how sweet to inhale the smoke
your thread was thin
and we know everyone by name

Again Annunciation of the angels can be heard
the sun of insomnia sets
we have crosses for surnames
only Our Lady’s cry is heard

Viktor Ivaniv

Viktor Ivaniv

Viktor Ivaniv (b. 1977, Novo Sibirsk) has a graduate degree in philology from Novy Sibirsk University, where he studied Russian avant-garde poetry. He was short-listed for the Debut Prize (2002). He is the author of three books of poems, including Glassman and Green Plastic (2006). Translations of his poems has been published in the St. Petersburg Review, Asheville Poetry Review, and Words Without Borders.

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