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ISSUE:  Fall 2011

That night I read The Revolt of the Masses not yet knowing
that at that same hour they
set houses on fire. They say,
an old woman tossed in flames trying
to escape from the room (fire—a famished animal—
clung to her back), but somebody fired into her forehead
and rushed ahead after the human meat,
and this wound—the third eye—watched
reproachfully the hostile blaze, no longer grasping
the danger of the thrumming redness, where she
soon dissolved, as if it were possible:
to forget oneself in watching. And the earth covered with asphalt
rushed away in panic from the raging crowd.
We’ve seen something similar in films
of Wajda or Roche, when somebody said:
he tries to prove that History does not cleanse,
that it repeats and craves blood, rivers of blood,
which, alas, do cleanse us, but only for awhile.
History—this time not an abstract and yawning bookishness—
boldly came off the screen and bruised our everyday eden.
Now I know more about it than I wished to. I stood,
you stood, out of the way, but in the district
there was no way of remaining deathless.
Corners of the houses and streets were killed, betrayed
by their own treacherously clear veracity.
Trucks and buses screeched as if they were taken to slaughter.
Only the traffic light blinked tirelessly, beside itself,
pretending to be a traffic light, so nobody
bothered it.
Has it always been this way? Who’d answer? There, smartasses.
“Here I am, Lord, before you.”
We rave about the second, the third Woodstock, about the kingdom of love … Quiet.
Decayed scarves, fragments of plates, chippings of plank,
a deformed doll, a bra, a pair of dentures,
a canary dried to ash; orphanhood, silence.
He (they) spoke very quietly, as if voice
could hurt him. When a ghost appears,
it’s clear at once: it’s just a deception. But here it’s different,
these ghosts don’t lie.


—Translated from Russian


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