There he is.
There he sits, this elderly and, let’s be blunt, this old man; he’s not sick and he’s still quite awake, but he’s no longer asked, that is, by his children, his own children, he is no longer asked what to do, how to live, but he has accumulated, yes, he has accumulated a lot of experience, a lot of understanding, I know how, I know, he thinks. He sits and waits to be called, so he can say, I-I-I-I-I know how. He’ll show them (I know), he’ll explain to them (I know), I know better, better, more, he knows (I know) how, what, where to put this, where to get that. But no, they don’t call, they don’t ask. He sits and waits. He holds back. He stiffens. He observes. How (they) do it all without him. He observes. They are not interested in his opinion. They are doing things the wrong way. He knows how. He’s biding his time. After all, they can’t help stumbling. Now he is no longer an old, gray-haired man with beautiful wrinkles; he is a hunter. The season has opened. He is an Indian, stalking his enemy. His soul shudders. He is now an expert in their mistakes. He is a scientist-technologist, a plumber of their follies. He can’t wait to see what happens. He wants them to stumble, to fall, yes, he wants them to be ridiculously, ridiculously, humiliatingly hurt, yes, he wants them hurt. Let them get back on their feet later, let them ask for it. That’s when the stage will be his. At first he’ll be quiet, smiling casually. Then he’ll say, “Why are you so stooped over, you’ve made a mistake. What’s this, your nose is leaking. Yeah. Then he’ll explain to these independent ones, these separate ones, who forgot all about him, how things are and what they are, and why, and how to deal with problems, and where to fasten things, and how to fill them, and what to write, and how to weld and to manage, how to send things and where, and what to expect in response, and what to say (to them), how to solder, because he knows, right? I-I-I-I-I know, he thinks. They come, they say hello, they leave, they must run, they have things to do, don’t fall down, don’t fall down. Bye.
Translated from Russian by Nina Kossman
Olga Medvedkova is an art and architecture historian as well as an author. She was born in Moscow, where she graduated from MGU (Moscow State University). In 1991 she moved to Paris. She works for CNRS and writes prose in French and Russian. She has authored two novels in French, Soviet Education and Angel Interns; Three Characters in Search of Love and Immortality (in Russian), and other literary texts.
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.