Rough Draft

Because poems arent raised like respectable children
But sprout forth at night between ones thighs like thorns
The poet-fool, the poet-father, poet-flower
Once only in one hundred years is born.

Yes. Thats precisely the way
That my dragged out spring scrammed,
spitting out its farewells.
And my long-awaited maturity arrived at last.
Then, yesterday, why did you beat so fast
my full, my sly heart
Then why did you beat as if you had gone totally mad?

In a hard, burlap coat I stand upon this April hill.
I have four lives to live. I have a letter from you .
“Hello, — you write — I am seriously ill,
And I dont have a life to live. Tomorrow I have chemotherapy.
However, I will try to survive. I will fight for my life.
As for you — you should try to be happy.
Take it as easy as you can. And dont be afraid of anything”.
So, here I am. Trying.

2. So then go on and try — resurrected and sweaty and ill
to jot down this life on a torn piece of paper
electronic, wooden, or green… azure-blue,
and for this — like the rest — I will always be grateful to you.

So much joy all around, so much strength in people and beasts!
… there is Anton Ochirov and Kiril Medvedev is chirping
And here is the man (warming up on a sweltering stone)
who, for several years bore his voluntary cross beside me
with a back that he broke as a child,
he looks like a sunray, so sharp, so mild
and to my “poor, poor boy” invariably replies:
“no, I am happy”

3. All these people — they stand straight and upright in my head
up to their hips in the earth
up to their shoulders in fiery grass
up to their foreheads in death
it wont be soon that they leave me without a trace.

As for those who fucked up, or got stranded, got lost,
those who stayed in Israel, Latvia, Poland, in Moscow marshes
we will take them along with us too, at no cost
like the shot-down blueberry bushes.
in our trousers,
our outstretched skirts
in our palms —
our blueberry alms.

4. We are standing upon April hill
in our hard-felt, our foolish coats
Olya, Nastya and Roma and
Petya and Sasha and who the hell knows
with our e-pads, our cell phones
in the deep of the birch-grove
like heavenly pillars
with our faces transparent
turned up to the skies
perfectly still.
I will teach all of you how to speak from the Sparrows Hill.

5. Hello — one will say — I, only one who
defended poetry against humiliation.
am ready to sign your verdict against me:
“Yes, be it your way! All this is not poetry.
It is merely my beating,
my voice thats alive
that once promised the woman I loved
to make her immortal
but couldnt even manage to make her happy.”
Hello — another one will say —
if at some point in a smoky April
you will remember me
as you long for the life that never was

— Because I loved you a lot more than you ever loved me —
the fourth will say.
And I needed you more than you would ever need me.
And thats why I will let you HAVE the winners trophy
Because… after all — do I look like a winner to you?

6. …However, since I am the one who is
claiming to have an uneasy male fate
all that is left to me is to step forward,
bow towards the people (closer than anyone else)
and say:
You, my dear ones, my poor, my kind, half-alive.
We are all a bit dead, a little immortal and false.
So — as much as you possibly can — wont you try
to be happy and please have no fear
(except the fear of humiliation, raggedness and
dogged out death)
But all in all, fear less.

Because all of you whose main battle is lost,
who stayed behind in Paris, on a hospital cot, in poems under the Moscow marshes,
we will gather you up in a heap and take you home at no cost
Like the scattered beads of shot-down strawberry bushes.

Dmitri Vodennikov

(translated: Yana Djin)

* * *

Hello Walt Whitman, Hello Charles Bukowski,
Little Anna Akhmatova, Hello, and Hello Yelena Shvartz!
Hi Marina Tsvetaeva, and hello Yan Satunovsky.
I didnt pull them out for you — but you would have liked them.

No, life didn't end. That rubbish disdain. That samurai pride.
Fucking weird'n' wild with its poems of love and of God.
In case you haven't noticed, my dears, I'm still much around with nothing to hide
Hanging out by the road like a bum and a drunk

Lord, here's my computer. Here're my trousers. Here are my socks.
And here — six books of rough, un-chiseled verses.
Poisoned, I choked them out in chunks
with abandon. With people. With bile. With mute curses.

One poem that hid under the bushel
and didn't let me write it for a year or two like a debt
peeked out this past July
and now bares its fangs like a wolf.

Another one was tossed under the lining.
But I retrieved it, washed, clothed it in a coat
and quickly wrote it down — it is on happiness.
The fifth one came just by itself. Alone

…So that's it! — it came down with a bang. The book is written
with dark morsels of honey and blood, with scraps of pain
(as the boozed out principle said once
after having worked half her life in a Soviet school:
I love you strongly children and I kiss you lowly
but please have some mercy and leave me alone for god's sake )
so, I stand here on my own — to my own self a shield
like a carefree fuck-you-grass in a pure field.

I, who bore these letters for You in italics, in bold,
clutching my belly with sleeves like a wounded beast. Harmed
I will drink now a bit from that azure-blue plate that you hold
then lie quietly down upon your green palm.

Because I know : on that hospital cot clenching oranges in my hand
(you see the light was so strong I could hardly make out your presence
you must know this — I will never abandon you
and precisely for this you will never abandon me either.

Dmitri Vodennikov

(translated: Yana Djin)

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