Poets of Ukraine. Maria Galina. Goryenna. Translated by Anna Halberstadt

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Poets of Ukraine. Maria Galina. Goryenna. Translated by Anna Halberstadt

 
1
 
The sun moves toward sunset, above the sea the air is clean

a young attorney comes to see another lawyer,

they sit on the terrace, like in some novel scene

the wine is Amanti, their ties are Armani

while out where white foam dissolves in blue

water, Goryenna shines with incandescent beauty,

confounds the search for words that could describe it,

red at sunset, green in the light of stars
 

Just five more minutes of melting lazy bliss

bad move, says lawyer to lawyer, to have settled here

there’s a saying shared by all worn down by sorrow

peace will ne’er be found by them, even after death

here, since the beginning of all time / the souls of those once

put to death unjustly / gather here from all around

looking for attorneys / they come together here

demanding a retrial / or the rumor mill
 

In its deep blue valleys, rusty hillsides

wander shades of the innocent, ghosts of the murdered
 

The local Chianti isn’t bad / aah, my friend, just stop
 

2.

Where the field beyond the fields / obscures another field

the sun is in a crimson pillar / a cloud of powdery snow /

a dry snowy storm

that was where they sort of lived / though never very well
 

3.

Look how these fatheaded towers / or really, towering thunderheads

release, completely harmless, the final green ray of light
 

4.

I do not love you, he said, but count me your devoted friend

the train leaves the gorgeous station, heading south

those leaden arches, in the insect manner,

purloined from nature by a tubercular engineer
 

Their roofs fade away in a long fluid arch

let us praise the T-square and firm pencil
 

Ladies’ hats and suitcases wander back and forth

how strange indeed that none of it’s forever

while she, tears veiled, walks on, her face gone pale,

embodying a classic image from interwar prose
 

Wings of dragonflies shine blue, fur-lined with smoke

effortlessly / (deflecting the last-bell ball)

holding the sky / while

from other wholly unknown places / from airports very far away

a swarm of wholly other insects
 

Along the rusty fields of green of a green and foreign land

the crawling caterpillar train-cars can be seen so well

like aspic on a plate the motley foreign cities

god, what will happen to us / same as always, my child
 

5.

What will you then dream of, while the storm blows

just look how lovely Nice is, look at Courchevel

look at these parvenus we’ve called forth from the dark

look, closer and closer, they’re almost like you and me

beneath Parisian roofs / almost like you and me
 

The local Chianti isn’t bad/ aah, my friend, just stop
 

While steam-powered life booms loud in honor of science

let us praise intelligent hands and precise sketches

the pumping station towers, the houses that are small

come, why are you crying again? / oh, I just don’t know
 

What will you then dream of, in the black and desolate steppe

it’s just heat lightning / go to sleep, my sweetie, sleep…
 

6

It seems that I can hear them in the very simplest things

as if some bats were thrashing round and squeaking —

flying it whistles / a bat / on tiny shreds of dark

remember we

                    do you remember
                               you all remember
how happy we once were

how a chaffinch whistled to us, a passing grass-snake rustled

in the garden where there’s trees of apple, and also trees of pear
 

I do not love you, he said, but I’ll be a faithful husband

and she, gulping back tears, stands already ‘neath the crown

embodying a classic image of old classic prose.
 

How frothful is the seafoam, how swollen is the surf,

how veiled is mount Goryenna in its shadows pale and blue
 

Lights are flashing here and there, the heat is made of pitch

don’t you worry, those there / are just spotlights
 

7.

The paper-thin borders of green blue lands

just look how lovely Nice is, look at Courchevel

how much gladsome flesh is being shipped in

by these snow-white airplanes and bright red trains

how silly are the fashions dictated by this spring!
 

They will go to take the waters / she’ll return alone
 

Ladies’ hats and suitcases, little white boats

how strange indeed that none of it’s forever

the call of distant paradise, a subtle itch beneath the skin

where are we being taken, I don’t know, just know we’re being led
 

As if bats came whistling across the waters’ expanse

quiet, my love, quiet, soon our turn will come

for us with our things, soon, and the wind will touch our cheeks

of course, we’re bourgeoisie, for heaven’s sake, who else?

Zagreb, Paris and Nice — all just mirages in the steppe
 

it’s just heat lightning / go to sleep, my sweetie, sleep.
 

The light at grandpa’s dacha flinched sharply and went out
 

As if by some mad chance, we could be saved

just listen to us, listen

just listen to us, listen

just listen to us, listen

just listen

listen

to us
 

Lights are flashing here and there, an august thunderstorm
don’t worry, it’s…
 
. . .
just close your eyes

8.
 

The sun makes its rounds above the world’s water

the gray-haired attorney answers his friend

you and I’ve been sitting here nearly till dark

but, no big deal, here, have a bit more wine

the local Chianti isn’t bad. Oh, my friend, just stop

who cares how high the mountains are in our personal hell

all these conversations don’t go anywhere
 

The Alps and Appalachians / no one will mourn for us

forgive me, but / at the very end of the road

if you need to quarantine there is no better place
 

Look how these fatheaded towers / or really, towering thunderheads

release, completely harmless, a final green ray
 

Look at the sun drowning in the bay, / a cloud melting in the sky

and if someone gives a moan / something of it reaches us

but hearing gets rickety with age, and every cry of farewell

is really more of a nuisance when you are, alas, an old man
 

Who knows who might be crying there, letting water out from eyes
 

The light at grandpa’s dacha flinched sharply and went out
 

Alas, we all, unfailingly, wherever we may be

see mount Goryenna shining from every corner of the earth

it confounds the search for words that could describe it,

it is red at sunset, purple in the light of stars

and those who brought us here will have to answer for that too
 

But listen, it’s about to crack, / our chrysalis of common fate

each of us was killed. Each of us will resurrect
 
___________________________

This translation was included in Communiques, Maria Galina’s seventh book of poems. Communiques, completed by Galina a day before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was translated from Russian and Ukrainian by Anna Halberstadt and Ainsley Morse and published in March 2024 by Cicada Press.

About the Author:

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Maria Galina
Odesa, Ukraine

Maria Galina was born in Kalinin (now Tver) and grew up in Ukraine. She started publishing fiction in the 1990s under the pen name Maxim Golitsyn. Two of her novels, Little Boondock and Mole-Crickets, were nominated for the Big Book Award in 2009 and 2012. She is also a prize-winning poet and a literary critic, as well as a regular contributor to the literary journal Novyi Mir. Since the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine, she has lived in Odesa.

About the Translator:

Anna Halberstadt. Photo
Anna Halberstadt
New York, USA

Anna Halberstadt is a poet and a translator from Russian, Lithuanian and English, who grew up in Lithuania and was trained as a psychologist at Moscow University and in the U.S. Her poetry in English was widely published in English-language journals, and Russian, in Arion, Interpoezia, Children of Ra and many others. Her poetry was translated into Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Tamil. She published four collections of poetry in English, and Transit and Gloomy Sun (in Russian).

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