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Arseny Rovinsky

Tr. Peter Golub


In a fit of anger he said, “Die, you godforsaken USSR”
and it did, and it was too late to say, “I was only kidding.”
The strength of the poetic word
has been revealed to us with such manic fury,
that, when petting a dog in the subway,
we can’t call her anything, and only moo
and look into her yellow eyes.


Where is that theater, beginning with a glass of vodka
Eugene, after whom the horseman raced,
Vladimir, Eugene’s friend,
the tailor, who sewed both their shirts?

The language changes, and we stand on the past,
imminent, ridiculous, tawdry,
hoping to bear it out, then breech
caching our herbarium in the rain,

and in a muffled and unruly voice
we prattle something in a useless babble,
through squeaking cogs and springs,
while holding tight to our ungainly things.

Where are those actresses, that sailed around on boats,
where are those actresses, that loved and fell in love again,
and whispered little classic fatuous remarks,
squinting their beady eyes, twisting their hands.

And I was there, and slept, and woke.
The light refracted and coalesced on me,
I saw how Stanislavsky chocked with laugher,
and how Nemirovich was on the verge of tears.


Talk till you’re blue! We’ve got a tub of wine to spare.
The juveniles drink quickly, much like goats,
but we won’t let them have our fire.
Breath, Horde, every third guy is Rome.

You ordained, and everything began anew:
I am still living in my Tambov
and I think poorly in this language,
and he still laughs my strange Eugene
and she still suffers that meek Tatyana.

I am still writing to the journal “Health,”
my articles on epidemics, pranks.
The editors don’t publish me, or understand.
But I know, I know

that this is how they have always disparaged talent,
the clowns, buffoons, and nihilists,
and there’s no clemency for them nor you nor I,
and there’s no bliss for them nor you nor I,
and there’s no freedom, for them nor you nor I.

Moscow, Moscow! I’m stuck on this noise.
On days like this I am not listless to create.
January stood, like a martyr for science,

the saucy catcalls,
met the public blizzard,
and the old women were ordained to ache  
their nephews given caramel and honey.

But I lied–it was April.

We took the old flute off the shelf
and followed the direction of my sight.
The pedestrians were seen only barely.

Quiet, and listen! I am afraid
that all I sing,
when I awake,
will tack onto some foreigner’s nostalgia
and I will turn in my grave.
Although, it doesn’t matter.


Thank you, for not laying down into my palm, freedom,
placed no coin into my proffered hands, or the fuming torch,
ash in your hair, lime in your joints —
chance meeting on the beach, show me the bird.
Best to sit in a turban on edge of the sound
and compose epistles for those
to whom you turned your back.
I love with your intentions, and cherish your fabrications,
fire follows you, and I’ll remain at home.


Really, is that so, for that, from those parts
By chance I flew here and now sit on the shore,
I close my eyes and see the southern wind
place the needle in the scratchy record’s groove
The observer of shadows, is drawn more to the shadow
of the face, than to the face itself,
a believer in the portents of the stars, the fugitive from his chicken coop,
the soldier who’d met end and start of all the wars in the medic tent, asked
the sister for an extra shot.
All that looked to the sun,
come autumn turned into
the sweet halvah of September
sugar soaked raspberries
you touch
your lip with your finger
and wish me a good


How was it to pull your solo from the beluga’s stomach,
stuck on your fate like on the Kremlin’s steeple,
and free the mother sea destined for you
from the crystal coffin.
How was it to drink white lava from the spring,
rustle your lips with delirious secrets,
and pull with crooked fingers the gold headed city,
which has forgotten the smell of honey fields.
How was it to swim over the water and forests,
in the dulcet night, where the heart burnt out.
A requiem is echoed by the beacons;
The moon hangs like an infant’s eye over the earth.


Evenings, snowed in dachas,
mirrors, filigreed with cinder.
Not a lance, nor collapse of the ossified framework
but the felicity of the choleric hag.

On and on they stretch and bend
the turbid aquariums of rivers.
You are alone, but fighting
millions of years and the Homo sapiens.

Columbine, the auburn monkey,
breathed a wind before her.
To the right a watchtower,
to the left another.
Go on.


the tenderhearted granny found in the pile of snow behind the metal garages
warmed in her hands carefully washed in kerosene
set clean on the windowsill
she sat and reminisced about Senya, the sun, the son,
and thought time timely held and held it by the tail
it was here and now gone like the anchor woman said
the wings of my clouds can already be heard above fifth floor
at least the apartment on Presnaya is going to the dear boy
now the brave lad is washed and dried
teeth white as pearls eyes like precious stones
now again he’s trembling scampering over the courtyards
if this isn’t a voice than what is it

Arseny Rovinsky

Arseny Rovinsky

Arseny Rovinsky (b. 1968 Kharkiv) graduated from the Moscow State Pedagogy Institute, and since 1991 has lived in Copenhagen. He is a regular contributor to Vozdukh, and has published three books of poems, including All at Once (2008).

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