The Holocaust never occurred,
it’s a matter of perception
and logical reasoning
said a young tall guy,
PhD from MIT in artificial intelligence,
sitting on the floor with Merlot
at a literary party in Cambridge, Mass.
A condescending hint was flickering
in his mocking brown eyes.
And if it did—said, softening the point
his girlfriend, a knockout Harvard Law
in tight Donna Karan corduroys,
—it’s not virtually relevant anymore,
the train is gone, so to speak.
I got up and left the building
so as not to smash his precious head
with a Wal-Mart folding chair.
That night I woke up in my childhood:
Moscow, January frozen precipice,
through frosted window
a huge poster: People and Party Are United!
held still by a projector,
my grandma behind the wall,
tossing and turning in her bed, sobbing.
The usual: remembering
her mother and three sisters,
their fading smiles on the old photo from a letter.
In her nightmare: their last supper
of bread and carrot tea,
night before their disappearance
into historical irrelevance.
Lodz, 1943, melting gray snow,
charred carcasses, monstrous Panzer,
roaring pointlessly at one spot.
Polish policemen warming up in the yard,
passing vodka around,
cold lard and cigarette stubs:
Poki my zyjemy.*
*From an old Polish national anthem.
Andrey Gritsman was born and raised in Moscow. He has been living in the US since 1981. He works as a physician. A prolific Russian and American poet and writer, he got an MFA degree in 1998. Author of many publications in the US, Russia and in Europe, and of fifteen collections of poetry and prose in both languages.
These English poems by Gari have the same energy and elegance as his Russian poems, and they are enriched by his multilayered, polyphonic use of the English language to express thoughts and feelings with sophistication and humor.
This new edition by Shearsman Press (UK) contains translations of Marina Tsvetaeva’s narrative poems (поэмы). They can be seen as markers of various stages in her poetic development, ranging from the early, folk-accented On a Red Steed to the lyrical-confessional Poem of the Mountain and Poem of the End to the more metaphysical later poems, An Attempt at a Room, Poem of the Mountain, a beautiful requiem for Rainer Maria Rilke, New Year’s Greetings, and Poem of the Air, a stirring celebration of Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight and the quest for the soul’s freedom. These translations were first published by Ardis in 1998 and reprinted by Overlook in 2004 and 2009. The current edtion was published by Shearsman Press (UK) in 2021.