Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Alexey Porvin


Translated by J. Kates

On the smooth surface of the night
gleaming like a turnstile,
the sudden slot of a sunrise
requires some payment from you.

You want to pass, and you drop
an uneasy token into the interior
of the mechanism that holds up
any movement through here.

The machinery lets passersby through
to open space, which can take 
loving possession of those minds
who have paid their own way

nor will you even recall the restless
little circle from your pocket, soul,
because there is far less profit
in constricted passageways.

* * *

A fly is humming among the stalks
a sound not recorded in the dictionary
of a weary garden:
an encumbrance to be shooed away -
well able to take care of itself,
to shy away from reprisal.

Smidgen, be off into God's own world -
Now I'm free of your retribution.
Stop your humming and quiet down
behind the river, behind rain 
deaf to the noise of water
under what's left of shade.

Drops on leaves - every word there is;
their liberty - a look upwards
remembering the fall
of light onto the shroud of a wing,
into an incessant unecessary buzz
by which we forget - that's all.

* * *

Where light slipped in between the symbols
of a letter, becoming a slight breeze,
that's where a falling sheet of paper is caught up
and tossed high.

It contains no single intention, but there is one
driven to music by your hands
as they press the keys of a piano -
and the sound lingers.

He is alive under your fingers, and you,
don't let up -keep on, keep on -
until the sounds in the wooden box
subside at last.

But, even then, hearing has learned
to prolong the very last sound in which
everything that is read as music will blend
into indivisible light.

Second Imitation of Americans

From the dwellings of man warm smoke,
sharp every prickle on the blackthorn.
The letter creates a stable cross-bar
of the mailbox it hangs on.

Coffee boils over, percolating things:
Be quiet and don't take a stand.
Door, do something, act quickly,
midnight is coming to an end.

Books, drinking glasses, knives, keys
came together on the towering hill
and speak - we can not see
the slow-moving flame.

As soon as it reaches us, we're finished.
Let this be the climactic end.
We're already returning to our own home -
to serve humankind.