It hurts, he says, it hurts.
The door is wide open, but only ash
Flows through my fingers trickles away.
The chimney is clogged with sand rain.
Grip, breathe, I say, hold on
To my back, to my neck, my vertebrae, my spine.
Run, I say, run.
I don’t want to, he says, better you go,
Can’t run away, better here than there,
Better this than there.
Run, he says, your burden will be a stranger’s.
Look, she says, I am naked and barefoot,
I live, I breathe, what else is left.
It’s a tornado, a typhoon, a universal shudder.
It whirls you away, it carries them all away, the strangers, the old, the young,
Turn around and see, it’s all black in the distance.
Nothing but crosses. Pogosts, roads, weddings, bridges.
And beneath them — the river, wide, deep.
Above the river — the house.
Everything inside it is just as it was.
Everyone’s at the long table. And outside the windows, the garden.
And outside the windows – the blue.
I’m staying here.
I’m staying with him.
What are we? Just roadside dust.
A field weed at most.
You go, he says. I’d rather be like this.
What fools women are, always repeating the same goddamn
Nonsense about love, dreams… It’s all gone.
I know, I know, just hold my hand, don’t talk.
Silently, just walk.
Get rid of sacks, trunks, tables, walls,
Everyone’s gone. I can’t catch up with you,
Whether I run, howl, or crawl.
See, in the thickets, a light-blue creeper.
See, on the far side of the river, the lights.
And her face is full of blisters and sores.
I’d better lie down right here, I’m alone anyway.
It’s not because of my dreams, is it? I’ve lived in them for a long time.
There the grass is lush, there the water is soft.
Listen — the bells…
Do they not ring for us, do they not hum for us?
I’m old, she says, too old for a wedding.
Yet this turf, this grass, this sand…
It’s just right for me. Just my size.
From the top of my head down to my toes.
Even my mouth is stuffed with this land, this soil.
Yet why am I shivering.
Yet why am I shivering so.
Promise you’ll carry it away in your hands — this table,
This dust, this rain, this black soil,
This mossy, rippling, impassable mud.
Drink the red mare’s milk straight from the udder.
Lie down beside it and sleep.
The fruit is emerging, look.
It screams, o how it screams.
So scary and dark its head.
Wrap the newborn in burdocks,
It’s dark and sightless inside, so what, kin to kin.
Help us, let us in, we’re fleeing the fire.
We shall cover your floor with stuffy carpets,
And with brown pile we shall wrap the sky.
Afterbirth of a lone star, far away, there,
And there, beyond the woods, flows the strangers’ river,
So heavy its water, clouds float in it.
Translated from Russian by Nina Kossman
~ ~ ~
*A line from a poem by Uri Tzvi Greenberg
Karine Arutyunova is an artist, author, and illustrator.
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