Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Vladimir Gandelsman


Translated by Olga Zilberbourg


Threaded through itself,
needle and thread,
dry hermit thought,
scant layer,
gently interleaving the air,
a bookmark for its pages,
beak askew, -
it, like a steeple of order,
or an axis,
or a blade drawn from its sheath

and driven into a pond, where fish,
where golden
halos circumscribe the scales,
where fear
is more circular and silent than a target,
and where one female with a singular
gaze skywards,
stiller than all
stands, barely swaying, stiller than a shadow. 

Then, lingering at the start,
that arrow,
biting into the air, into the light,
two wings
spreading-laboriously, definitively,
and letting drops fall from its claws-
above the pond,-and in the egret's beak,
as a fish's mouth,
world opens wide and gapes dumbfounded.


I took out a photograph, the portrait
of one who is no more.
Then I put it away. Lamp's shadow shook,
and I imagined that in the desk's drawer
the likeness suffocated.
In this peculiar way grief ambushed me.

Old Man

The old man stands up, groaning.
Throwing on a robe,
sweet-toothed, baby-like,
he seeks out marmalade.

Going by touch, in the darkness,
he's feeling around, shaking,
but remembers not where
anything is buried. 

And the reality is so much a dream
and a black cheval glass
that who is that anything
he cannot know.

Translated by Andrey Gritsman

My God, I entered the room at seven o'clock 
at the twilight time in the Fall, 
sat and dead bolted the room with rhyme, emptiness sniffed me out at the door
and then crawled away to where there is not  
a soul, I took off my shoes, made three steps, lay down, thought of something, sort of 
"turn off the lamp," but there was no light, 
not a thing about,
almost falling into a deep sleep
I woke up completely, opened my eyes, -
was it emptiness trying to crawl into
the room again, miracles making on the way - (that is
to set up mirror, armchair, the chest - 
without witnesses; that is when the names are shed off things, and float into sleeve, float 
into torn off nobody's sleeve's abyss), -
was it a hiss of the infant's heat and simultaneous turning of hundred black discs, the ones with
eyes of fishes asleep, 
and the soul was empty, unseen and bleak...

I reached for the lamp to "light up" the word that crossed my mind and lit up the notebook, and I 
opened it to let my speech out, 
and said "My God," so 
He could start out.