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Russian movie poster, detail.


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Alexandra Petrova

Tr. Stephanie Sandler



***

The silence of the tree is singing:
“The forest has gone up in flames.”
I could not sing my speechlessness in tune
with the silence, I had only tears.
Like the little tailor in the Grimm Brothers’ tale,
I took hold of the tree trunk
and held fast to the iron,
so that the wind couldn’t carry me away.
“Memory, it seems, outweighs
even cast-iron.
But memory is a mold, a measure, a thing,
and you are what you were not.
Fire and wind have vanquished
everything loved and prized.
Sand and ash were given in return.”
That is what the tree sings.

                          Published in an earlier version in Zoland 2 (2008).

***

O shepherd of all things,
was it you who looked
secret objects in the face?
Now what?
You lie flat out, all in tears.
Silence grows her whiskers of darkness,
and a boy peeks in at the door.
He is lovely, but it matters not.
The things have all dispersed now,
they will not answer by name,
and a shepherd’s horn will not gather this flock.
Listen, Sashenka, little novice,
let these scattered things
guard themselves at pasture, much as you
once cared for them yourself?

***

But what has happened to Semyonovna?
She dances no more.
She slipped in her tear-drenched boots.
And what about the hump-backed horse?
He plows the master’s field
and eats stale oats.
Everyone has taken up arms against me.
To live in the future’s house is impossible–
the mortals have laid in countless empty bricks.
Ah, my amiable friends, quickly,
I beg you, send me
the sun’s rays in photocopy.

***

I wander around an enchanted island.
Fate dropped me down here four, five,
perhaps six years ago. I forget how many.
I translate with the help of a dictionary,
but the bones of the letters dissolve into sand,
dribbling out in saturnian, elusive style.
The foreign sun makes wrinkles with its razor knife,
you will never know who floats in the water,
where the dark face of a man-woman
ripples and disperses into oblivion.
I got lost in the middle years of life,
among ancient words with scales and wings,
among cloned bits of language and chimeras.
Only the distant voice of a brotherword
in the forest of slanted rays
will open the door for me.
Caught in the branches, so slowly, on the sound-map,
–the slant of unfettered birds–the first words will come to me,
and those that a little boy once carved on the school-desk top
and enclosed in an arrow-pierced oval shape.

***

The rain ends and the birds strike up a song.
Nature goes on parade.
But Petrovich and I know: bad weather awaits.
Hey, we yell, let it roll! Light the bonfires,
there’s a total black out coming.
The fire, a whirling dervish, will dance into flame
with a whole-body shudder. The factories will rise up
and the proletariat will fly out over the seas
to Sabbath revels at the Capitol.
The franchises could care less, let it all flame out,
the fast-food joints will go broke from natural causes.
In waves from adjoining lands–from Briansk, Oryol, even from China,
riding on wolves, bearing banners,
racing on dromedaries–
the earth’s people will march en masse
on the pimps and parasites


McMetro

It was 6:00 a.m., and the wounded
were crowded into the subway car, barely awake:
Africans, Chinese, Albanians,
Ukrainians. Anyone left out?
Rocking to the rhythm of the train, they read
the news of murders, of unembellished deaths.
Sounding out the syllables, they repeated
the words: e-lec-tions, oil and gas.
Some gypsies got on, playing the accordion,
and started up a wild dance.
His hand holding out a paper cup,
a grubby little guy was begging for gold.
Emerging out of the long tunnel,
liquid make-up carved out
cheekbones and foreheads
from the faces made of light,
and the ray of a trident
set the firebird ablaze–
forming, on the paper cup,
a vivid purple M.

***

You think that you’ve leaned against just anything,
but it turns out to be a boundary marker.
The school of logic has dissolved down to bits of bast:
they are floating by in the water, laughably so.
The landscape implacably grows out to meet you,
enters into you flat-out.
Forgive me, if I stop answering you.
No words are left. Only the trees sound inside me.

Alexandra Petrova

Alexandra Petrova

Alexandra Petrova (b. 1964) lives in Rome, having been born in Leningrad and educated in Tartu. She moved to Rome from Jerusalem, where she lived during the 1990s. Her books of poetry in Russian include Broken Line (1994), Residence Permit (2000) and Only the Trees (2007), and a philosophical operetta Dolly’s Shepherds (2004). She has been translated into Italian, Hebrew, Serbian, and, most recently, Portuguese. All the poems published here are from Only the Trees, save the first one, which comes from Residence Permit.

 
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