Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Mikhail Aizenberg


Translated by J. Kates

A light breeze on the cheek, no,
a tiny moth has come awake,
and flies like a negligible feather
reminding me of something about you.

It scribbled, outlined something
in a dim visual movement,
A lightscript nearly imperceptible
beyond a pallid platinum glimmer.

A pale, quivering trifle still
irresistible in the soundless darkness.
Because of it, the dark is not endless
Indeed, nearly welcoming - thank you.

* * *

So secret mechanisms show through
Near the bones at the corner of the cheek
Forces erupted like blistering sores,
Or my whole life might never know what's in me.

A crop failure there. A battle for oxygen,
Rivers choked with silt. Wild animals
Find the bank, a ford, by their own trails, 
And climb down to the waterhole.

In the depth a beast
Whimpers for its own kind,
The bird inside regrets its fledglings,
Wolves in pairs
Sleep in their lairs,
The children have no mother or father.

A wolf looks around: who's king of beasts here?
By instinct he raises his hackles.

* * *

Children, where are you?
The children are out somewhere camping,
The children are hitchhiking
Along trails made by animals.

Maybe not that far away.

We're wild men. Our legs are dappled.
Our snouts black.
The children have grown up among us,
But not yet been fully initiated.
Their faces are simple, their eyes insipid.
Strange to them the tablets of our laws 
with half understood names

If only one of us hadn't met them
Along the road.
Better a swineherd-king with his pigs.
Better crows, martins, and magpies.
A lizard in the sun.

* * *

Light rain falls as quietly
as the footfall of an Indian guide.
Nettles here, buckwheat there.
Who tends these? Not I, the mushroom-gatherer.

A cloud of spruce needles,
scales from a dragon,
but I see nothing, not I.
I hear nothing, not I.

I only hear, softer than a breath,
the wind blowing over me,
an alder-elder rustles
distantly beyond the stillness.

From the level pale blue sky
from a corner not so far away
an arrow has been fashioned
destined for anything alive.

Who will escape its barely
perceptible flight?
See how the invisible bird
sings like a bowstring.