Inna Kulishova. “If I hear whispers…”

Also in World:

My project
Computer drawing by the author
Inna Kulishova. "If I hear whispers..."

I came home from the war today, but no one noticed me.

Probably because I didn’t bring any pictures.

I wanted to say that, but it turned out I didn’t know how.

Behind my back, birds were chirping, puppies and kittens were squeaking,

and other animals, too, and I had to shoot forward

just to keep them quiet. My back sprawled as if the

the field stood upright and the sky washed over it. And so now

I understand only bird and beast languages,

in them I tell everything that did not have time to be in the pictures.

I came from the war and wanted to embrace my daughter, my mother and father,

while my husband turned into a big iron bird

and stayed in the sky,

and now I can feel the sky

caressing my back and kissing

my husband’s lips.

Grandma, the bird is singing somewhere near, and the kitten

meows, let’s take him, says my daughter to my mother.

How are we going to take it, we only have three walls and a gas

stove on which I warm bread for the three of us.

Grandpa, I beg you, let’s take the kitten

and let’s give the bird a shelter.

How will we take the bird, my little one,

she will fly away and there’s not a single tree around.

And the kitten will fall, for we do not have the fourth wall.

I came home from the war today and didn’t know how to tell them.

* * *
If I hear a whisper

from one country through another

and across the country

I hear a whisper

it makes me


If I avert my eyes

taking a quick picture of how

th-th-th-that which looks like a scream kicking a beast

shriek shrieeeeeeeek shrieeeeeek shrieeeeeek


live, beast

my insides

turn into yours and

shine through

if I hear footsteps

on every stairway

of every entrance in which

a life is taken

I hear every step

that carries away a life

every step

it hits me on the head with a swing

cutting through

if the faces in the photo

a quick glance

all all all the faces swim up

like corpses in rivers

a couple of months later

after I look away

they swim right through me

tearing me through

If I understand everything

Almost almost almost all

don’t talk don’t talk don’t talk

If I can hear better I can see better

Lord, I’m not Your lyrical character

Lord, I am not Your hero.

Lord, I am not Your


All who are alive are dead

Even if they are dead

Or still alive


In the form of water for

living water

I’m only moving indiscriminately

To prevent other movements

carrying away taking away

carrying away taking away

carrying away taking away

I’m smiling I’m smiling I’m only smiling

only because my face is distorted

I don’t cry just because

crying is more comfortable, more effective, more therapeutic

fake fake fa-ak-k-ke

I’m not your pain




I don’t have headphones

I don’t have my glasses

I don’t have

* * *

I’m stroking you, Ukraine, on your wet bloody back

with a mussed coat

blood on your tail blood on your paws on your muzzle you blood flows from your nose to your mouth

as though you are a little cat almost a kitten

I saw yesterday in Tbilisi’s courtyard

Eat, eat, kitty

You warm yourself in cellars you lick your wounds

Is your kid brother dead?

You’re trampled on by humans with their screams and soles

by stones of walls kicked by rockets

But when I stroke you

like a big brother thrusting

a tune in your flowerbeds your fur burnt wool

your tangled bloody skin no I’m powerless on the sidelines

standing there blurred by my blinders of memory

forgot where all my loved ones live

I’ve been writing about it I’ve been writing about it

licking the salty letters off my cheeks

but what can I do

if the day is tied to the day

like a harness to a horse

off its wheels and running

running running through the fields, the mountains, the foothills

its bleeding sides, a bleeding muzzle

impossible to stop

Free and wounded free and wounded

how can I get you drunk and fed

my jumping bloody free one

I’m writing about it

I’m repeating myself obscenely like

my dreams that skip over diagnoses

Who’s there or here I can’t wake up can’t wake up

Wake up I can’t fall asleep

Letters come out of my throat spewing vomit.

Beasts don’t cry bleeding

Ukraine in the name of a wound that cannot be stitched.

Metaphors are too intelligent for trouble.

and too bloodless.

I had a dream three months ago about Georgia.

I was talking to its second President Shevardnadze.

He was worried about how to help the country and what to do.

And in the dream I told him to treat it like a stray dog.

I also dreamed of a woman crying, a Jewish woman who lost her dog.

Ask another God, I told her. When you ask them the first time, they do it

But only the first time

Who to ask these days? All the gods have already been asked for

the beasts as for the wounded landscape killed or wounded as

the homeless beasts

I don’t care because no other revelation was given to the world

and you thought the apocalypse was something from Hollywood

no, it’s just pain and decay and the extent of it

stretches the body like a torture chamber to the size of the soul

although everyone has been offered a discounted one

Translated from Russian by Nina Kossman

About the Author:

Inna Kulishova
Inna Kulishova
Tbilisi, Georgia

Poet, translator, essayist, linguist. Born in Tbilisi, graduated from the Faculty of Russian Philology at Tbilisi State University. She has authored poems, essays, articles and translations published in poetry anthologies, periodicals and academic collections in Europe, America and Asia (Georgia, Russia, Israel, USA, Ukraine, England, Poland, Denmark, Belgium, Uzbekistan, etc.) Author and editor of poetry collections in Georgia, in particular co-author and compiler of Russian-language Anthology of Georgian Poetry (10th-20th centuries). Author and presenter of the video project “Frontiers and Borders” at the Center for Cultural Interaction “Caucasian House”, dedicated to both literature and interethnic, multicultural relations. (2013 – 2017). Winner of the Diogenes International Internet Short Film Festival, special diploma for “What Chairs Remember,” 2020. Author of the following books “On the Edge of the Word” (Israel, 2000) and “Frescoes in the Air” (Moscow, 2014).

Inna Kulishova Инна Кулишова
by Ian Probstein

A new collection of poems by Ian Probstein. (In Russian)

by Ilya Perelmuter (editor)

Launched in 2012, “Four Centuries” is an international electronic magazine of Russian poetry in translation.

by Ilya Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967) was one of the most prolific Russian writers of the twentieth century.  Babi Yar and Other Poems, translated by Anna Krushelnitskaya, is a representative selection of Ehrenburg’s poetry, available in English for the first time.

by William Conelly

Young readers will love this delightful work of children’s verse by poet William Conelly, accompanied by Nadia Kossman’s imaginative, evocative illustrations.

by Maria Galina

A book of poems by Maria Galina, put together and completed exactly one day before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is Galina’s seventh book of poems. With translations by Anna Halberstadt and Ainsley Morse.

by Aleksandr Kabanov

The first bilingual (Russian-English) collection of poems by Aleksandr Kabanov, one of Ukraine’s major poets, “Elements for God” includes poems that predicted – and now chronicle – Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Three Questions. A Documentary by Vita Shtivelman
Play Video
Poetry Reading in Honor of Brodsky’s 81st Birthday
Length: 1:35:40