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Dmitry Tonkonogov

Tr. Peter Golub

The Midday Old Woman

She sat at the table
Before the lain out silverware
And the old tom wandered through a beam of light,
Thinking of himself with highfalutin words.
He knew something, but didn’t reveal the secret,
Went inside himself and turned into a king.

And they lived slow, prosaic lives,
Though memory didn’t keep these days.
The heavy aimless summer spilled
Everywhere and layered all around.
The wasp, crawling along the scales of the parquet,
The flowers, wilted from the heat,
And on the wall hangs a giant painting,
In which eternally roll antimony spheres
Across a tawny surface, polished with paraffin.


And every time I wake up sitting,
A mummy in a chilly tomb.
A woman, a large insect,
Brings me breakfast in her iridescent paws,
And some ambrosial essence wafts behind her.

With a can opener like a tremble clef,
I peel the lid off the white calamari.
Become hysterical and def,
Seemingly — old and elevated,
Nothing to do about the suffocation.
Behind the window leaves are smoking,
And something vulpine in each person dwells.
The babes are carried from their former places.
How many brides with shoddy fortunes
Show up to church.
And I sit in my bed spiteful and pale.
Words everywhere, even in streams of smoke
They are unseen and present.

I only hear, how the earth drones
Must be the ocean is retreating.
And with the rustling fins,
The fish stand at my window, or is it just the shade.

The Calm

Reaching to the farm — it is already autumn,
And lazy cats speak Lithuanian.
The more graceful the bend of the pine in the yard,
The quieter the children and better the noshes in the kitchen.

Having tasted the eel just brought out of the smoke house,
While the old man told the story of a tempest,
I begin my departure and say that Vilnius
Has nothing on your village.

I am escorted by two cool women.
Holding hands like Siamese twins.
I imagine: they are bare and small,
Silently weeding through a deserted island.

...At night I take the longest road to the sea.
I undress near some driftwood collected in a pile.
The water is icy, halibut slips under my feet
And a patrol ship drifts in the middle of earth.


Dogs run by silently.
Today I will not shed a word
At the door an old woman meets me,
And we embrace as children, without meaning.

She laughs — maybe is crying,
And by mistake gives me a secret letter.
But right away grabs it from my hands, and hides it
In an empty case, left over from a violin.

Then she puts her hands on my knees.
I run my fingers over hers.
I will count ten generations,
That wander between us like nomads.

And in the windows, night, that comes with me.
We’ve locked the door — the tea is steaming.
As if I were behind a crystal wall,
She dreams of me — yes, I can come in dreams.

...Narrow headed dogs run by.
During the night the wind builds snowdrifts.

The Yoke

When the last dream stood over the horizon
The thunder crawled forward — a surreptitious front.

The woman hid inside the warmth of her long body
With Evpaty Kolovrat lying in her bed

He speaks to her and demands attention.
While the woman drifts like a full piranha.

She is made happy by the pretty words that waft from his chest.
Evpaty Kolovrat creeps between her legs.

She thinks of smoke — wants herself
To turn into cool water and spill across the bed.

The Radio

Blok naps curled up on the bench,
Bunin, diffident, frail, tries to fall asleep standing up.
Workers pass by, one of them, in a cheap cotton coat,
Approaches Gogol’s bed. Gogol has a bed.

It has two feather mattresses. Gogol, leaning on his elbows,
Quietly answers him, and the worker continues on his way.
He turns off the radio.
The radio quiets, the radio doesn’t sing.

Only by morning does it rustle with early news.
Gogol is already awake. Gogol is already getting up.
They say that under the earth are some important plenums.
Bunin fries an omelet. Carries it to Blok.

Christ first talks about fishing, then the arabesque.
String instruments hang on the wall, the wind fells a pine...
All the bells ring, and the fishing line tautens.
The signals with the exact time catch their wave.

Rough Draft

All, that is dreamt in autumn,
Will be remembered and repeated.
I am afraid of my old self
And the half living.
The word is the same way
First it appears in a dream,
And then lays in the road,
Like a derelict horseshoe.

All, that is dreamt in summer,
Is on the fringe of love and depredation.
Angels fly into the dream,
Exercise patience.
And they leave god’s deserted island
Hoping for the resurrection soon to come.

All, that is dreamt in spring,
Will remain in the memory of the rough draft.
In the twilight of language
An extraordinary large and sylvan human being
Searches for refuge.

Dmitry Tonkonogov

Dmitry Tonkonogov

Dmitry Tonkonogov (b. 1973, Moscow) has spent much time in Siberia working on various expeditions. His poetry and critical writings have been widely published, and he is the editor of the literary journal Arion. He is the recipient of the Moscovsky Schet Prize (2004). His book Dark Alphabet was published in 2004. His poetry was anthologized in Contemporary Russian Poetry (Dalkey Archive 2008).

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