She sleeps through the crash. Her living ship, having failed to resist the pull of this uncharted world, still succeeds in protecting her within the spiral labyrinths of its bowels. Barely living: its last cry for help lost in vacuum; its heart burnt out on entry. As its life force declines, her ship studies air, studies water, studies dirt. With its final act of love and devotion, it begins to transform her accordingly. For many revolutions she sleeps, safely cocooned in her cradle, being reshaped to survive on her own, as magma bubbles up and rock crumbles around her.
She comes to in an echoing cave in a mountain. Her ship is no longer living, but its memory surrounds her with a magnificent ruin—a treasure. As she mourns, she examines what has become of her: slippery wetness of membranes, prickliness of hairs, tenderness of skin folds. She feels lessened by this body’s fragility, neediness. Her flesh, now infused with this world’s air, this world’s water, this world’s dirt, cries out for nourishment. She stumbles outside, seeking sustenance under the array of auroras that remind her of her home’s radiant skies; finds it in tender, slippery creatures. Fast, but not faster than her. Her mind is sickened, but her body—strengthened—rejoices. With the whole of her self, she knows she will live. This is what the world asks of her, to lessen herself to survive. She does as her instincts command her.
She eats. She sleeps. Her cave fills with sand, fills with water, fills with ice. The world turns around its star.
How do you measure time when you’re timeless? It’s eons before she realizes some of the slippery creatures’ grunts is language. They make up a word for her. It’s been so long since she had a name; she listens in, watches them multiply their descendants, contemplates their rises and falls. By now, she is attuned to the needs of this slippery body of hers; it cries for something other than nourishment. She hears men drum, smells them burn smoke at the mouth of her cave. Next time one of them wanders inside—one of those who worship her, not of those who are food—she carries him into the bowels of her ship. She takes him apart; interweaves his double helix with hers—again, again—until she senses a heartbeat. Then she retreats into sleep, lulled by the sound of ice sheets slithering across the terrain.
When hunger awakes her, snow is gone; so are those who knew her name. New men walk straight, weave cloth, build tall houses; they worship nothing but language. She wonders if they give a name to her son.
E. V. Svetova was born in Moscow when it was the capital of a now extinct empire, and she had a chance to experience both the security and the subjugation of the totalitarian state. In retrospect, it was a winning combination of a happy childhood and a subversive youth. When the country she knew disintegrated like planet Krypton in front of her eyes, the shockwave of that explosion blew her across the world. She has landed on the island of Manhattan and has considered herself a New Yorker ever since. These days, she lives at the edge of the last natural forest on the island with her artist husband, sharing their old apartment with an ever-expanding library and a spoiled English bulldog. Her creative nonfiction was published in a few magazines; her novels Print In The Snow and Over The Hills Of Green have won multiple literary awards.
Ekaterina Belousova is a literary scholar and teacher. She writes prose and poetry, and lives and works in Moscow.
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.