Iryna Shuvalova

Homepage of Ukrainian poet and translator

5 poems translated into English

17/05/2010 @ 13:31

Translated from Ukrainian by Vitaly Chernetsky


hi there. carma greets you by the hand. it scares you
to lie on the bathroom floor crying
cider vinegar tears. yesterday’s life
deposits like calcium on teakettle walls

we gnawed on distance—but time gnawed us in half. what
will we say now when we run into each other
except the tiresome “who are you with?—any random stranger . . .”

in memory’s notebook devils, devils are scribbled
let that frightful wordless nothing pass you by
on the margins, neither rhyme nor line—only gaping abyss

now the second time you spread under my pencil.
hands tremble—indicating for sure that text
is too close to completion. already
labor has started without any preceding sex

to this immaculacy one arrives on foot
from the warm bordellos of flesh—we felt good
in the tight fold of paper. yet again we’ll

feel well sleeping with others, in other beds,
to make sure we don’t flinch, quietly the children
we don’t have in common pull blankets over our faces

* * *

boy with a kite instead of a heart
how can I hold you still in my fingers, boy?
how to slip between raindrops, to choose out of all
your versions the right one, not the prettiest one? for dreizehn
long minuten lying next to you
I start confusing sounds and letters
but the wound of the mouth, fortunately, can’t be healed
the wound of the mouth will always hurt unbearably

oh kite-boy, turquoise and enamel blue
sweat and foam, the engine behind the ribs goes crazy
your shadow runs after you along the asphalt
your shadow behind you, while you’re in the sky
like some crazy Hellene, corrupted
by the temptation to hit the wind’s tambourine with your body
the Chaldeans err, but still they do know something—
because of this it’s especially scary to love them

oh boy with a kite . . . in heaven there are so many
secrets inscribed—you’ll never have time to learn them
oh boy, we’re weightless—we all hang
somewhere in between times, and who says you’re higher?
my boy, my kite, see the fangs of Icarus,
the hierophant’s smile, wind in the bosom.
not everyone flies, but everyone falls. your challenge,
your desperation confirms this rule yet one more time

oh boy with a kite instead of a heart,
how should one treat your fatal bites?
how to restrain you? still, if the thread breaks
all the same you surely won’t let me go, boy . . .
but warm wax drops are falling, the closing titles are running,
who but the sun can now kiss your forehead?
at times kites too lack air
at time they too can’t bear this lack of air

* * *

the milk in jugs of death will never sour
the seams between lampposts will never open

why don’t we set sail at night in black barges—
whom will our nets catch this time around?
will there be any souls among the fish?
will there be at least some fish among the souls?

our lord won’t let the monsters to be born
to noble kings and queens

our lord will send us fish and oil
as well as sage and grapes
the firm conviction that tomorrow will come
and the conviction that this too shall pass

our lord stands on guard of our betrayals
(forgive me, although they had taught me prayers
I nonetheless again abstain from them)

he will inscribe a message on the waters
that these black barges will be saved from drowning
that it’s too early still to learn the tongue of fish

* * *

summer is near. despair tickles our fingers
balconies darken. piles have been washed away
lilac begins. lilac does not let go
summer is near. we sublimate. we cry

chronicles from orion. comets. blackouts
twilight closes in above our heads
your hand braids the white lace of sleep
smoking. insomnia packs the store of themes

trees stand on rafts
fear shakes the trees
stars as big as trout
nap in their hands

we were not killed by war. we were killed by its absence
evenings. lighters. sentences. stations. children
summer shuddered released thunders in heavens
like drool dribbling from the mouth of an old paralytic

in hope of getting somewhere we were eating soil
with each day earth got bigger and closer
summer got heavier. summer now pressed on the chest
leaves at night scratched in the darkness like mice

trees carry their dreams
a hundred years without war
a hundred years without war
trees carry their dreams

one more such summer cannot be lived through, drunk down
the spring of dead ends uncoils inside the body
chronicles from orion. white buildings
you bend—fingers grab whole bunches of herbs
the sea somewhere close by growls faintly, just in case

this is not summer. this is your mortality shining a spotlight
the sounds of water begin with the sounds of stone
all things came to the beginning. the knees were hurting
sky grew lighter. foam shivered thickly
birds stared silently—vigilant, haughty

shadow gains the contours
shadow gains the contours of light
this is my shadow gaining the contours of light
this is my shadow

the snake-fighters

snakes emerge from burrows clad in crunchy aluminum
snakes emerge all lonely from burrows at nightfall
while the snake-fighters put on tunics of chitin
and thickly, heavily mark their eyes with kohl

snakes scream—their screams are already collected in bottles
snakes scream—voices freeze in the air
then they are finally carried far, far away
then they finally drown in air

and the snake-fighters, these fragile spirit-seers
these ox-eyed sons of generations of Boöteses
stomp on the snakes’ faces with their white feet
cut off with knives the snakes’ unbraided locks

and the snake-fighters, these standard-bearers of blackouts
plunge five fingers of iron into the snakes’ heads
snakes scream—their bodies get stuck in between darknesses
in the super-treacherous clasping of fingers and legs

snakes pulsate, quiet down, rot under the open skies
their bodies are now chipped marble columns
and the snake-fighters, these little bloody ephebes
cut open with nails the narrow palms of their own hands

in the burrows it still reeks of opium from the extinguished pipes
in the burrows the violin strings still resonate. however
while bodies still smolder and wounds still produce clouds of vapor
the snake-fighters again paint their swollen eyelids
with mournful black—and they cry, and cry, and cry

(translated by Vitaly Chernetsky)

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