Six Poems

Translator: Alex Niemi

Little boy, sliding from line of light
to line of scroll,
where letters of black
tangle together, like blackened chains
tangle together, like clinging leaves.
Little boy stooping, leaning, balding.
Little boy swallowing clear drops.
And at his temples two wilting lilies,
white wilting lilies;
a handful of rice.

all points
stripped of all profit.
Ourselves – like litter
like leaflets,
like letters.
How can you sleep,
golden cuckoo?
Are there no dreams
in the gray Kazakh steppe,
Fergana wilds,
no Russian words?
And to you we are a burden.
And to you we are unwanted.
And it is you that we call


Two centuries in a rented apartment,
quietly moving furniture
from corner to corner
and bare walls
papered over in fashion,
the red-haired demon,
he thirsts for different songs,
Soviet string bags,
bitter rowan berries.
He has an ailing liver.
And at night
he cries for mama–
both that one and this,
and both in longing.
Two centuries ago
his ancestor
made an unbroken vow
to wander
under the heat of the crackling sun
and all summer
drink pale tea
from a clay bowl.
Tired, swarthy,
with a tufted beard,
he asks to go home.
But another’s summer does not end.


And the City slept.
Only greasy beards of aqsaqals,
prickling at its crown,
as a throat by rotting quince.
And along the roads
shaggy gorgons on twisted trunks
skimmed bare heels in water,
suddenly spilt from the sky.
The bath on Old Moscow Street
- or rather its remains –
with ghostly steam and pails.
An instant – and all will subside.
Only the scent of hennaed hair
will linger.


Shorts full of patches; a leaf behind the ear,
Granny Zuleika calls out to Zayinka
Trills on in half-Russian: Olinka!
And on the clothesline at Grandma’s – A cloud
hangs drying by a satin brassiere
And it’s unclear which is more out of place.
In the stable the hazy cat lazes;
shatters a jar of mulberry jam.
Horsetails flick at sagging haunches,
a cat in mulberries; horses in apples.


And a child lives up in the clouds
and babbles strange omens
underneath the rug
braiding charades into knots.
The boy solves something,
but he is too small, too naïve,
he dreams of winsome willows and red lilies.
He sneezes from dust,
dust mites
and wool, trundling through fog,
he tugs on an overlarge jacket
and doesn’t know,
where the blue ball rolled,
and rummages all around
and cannot find it,
and whines bitterly.


Leaving home in the evening
with a volume of Stone,
and you tear through violets littered at the entrance
like a stolen thief.
The swollen eye of the stoplight
blink indifferently in back.
Sleep, exhausted keeper of crossings -

one-hundred headed Gorinich
of car scales
that soon forget the eternal city.
That soon forget the eternal.
With broken thoughts,
steady, separate,
and everything clings to death,
under coats of make-up and smiles.
As if it suddenly smelled -
spring-like – turtles everywhere,
then – burning,
even in the arc of the sky
for worse, perhaps,
turned away.
And zeros written across –
a failed Vincent sketch.


The kitchen smells of cresses and boredom,
A lifeline stretches between every cup,
The heavens stoop grimly over rooftops,
Outlined shoulders and hips fuse together.

Then the teapot boils, mocking, arrogant,
Spout rising in heat to explode, explode,
I dreamed there amid tedium and rags
Should I live like a red hen on a perch?

There, rains like evil prophecies fall, spit
Sprinkling saliva over the city,
Memories, memoirs, light, and the others,
The quick whip of sharp nettles and branches.

A fearful past watches through the window,
Watches, looking for a resolution,
Dust flies, rummages between eyelashes…
You, bring me the rain boots and broom.

Когда сонные майны
верещат на рассвете,
ветки сжимая
костлявыми лапками,
каменный призрак
шевелится близ городского базара,
где зарей голосят мечети.
Мучительно морщится,
кашляет пылью многоэтажек,
как желтолицый дехканин
на грязной ослихе.
И пышнотелый город,
щурясь — что твой узурпатор —
с ехидцей,
хищно слюнявит
обсохшие губы асфальта.
вальяжно топорщит
чинаровый веер.
...Над Хаст-Имамом,
истово плачущим
за тишину усопших,
тридцать тийинов
падают в сопло поблекшего верха.
И зонтики снова текут по городу,
в дурацких узорах и серых каплях,
как пышные цапли
в осенней жиже.
Меж ними хмуро бредут карнизы,
а снизу – ржавые подоконники,
и мелкие кони –
конечно, кони,
их топчут остренькими копытами.
Но ты не пытайся постичь сансару
и мелкую завязь солярных символов
в бензиновых кольцах на топких улицах,
печальных подтеках на грязном мраморе
и выгнутых бровках амуров бронзовых.
А просто ссутулься,
как будто вызубрил
все правила вузовской геометрии
и сядь под омелу в роденовской позе
лицом к ойкумене и против ветра.

Sleepy lanes
screeching at dawn,
twigs squeezing
bony paws,
stone phantom
stirring near the city bazaar,
where the mosques wail at daybreak.
Grimacing painfully,
coughs the high-rise dust,
like a sallow farmer
riding a filthy jennet.
And the boastful city,
squinting – that your usurper –
rapaciously slobbers
the asphalt’s dry lips.
imposingly bristles
a Chinar fan.
… Above the Hast Imam,
devoutly weeping
for the silence of the deceased,
thirty Tiyin
fall in the cone of the withered top.
And umbrellas flow again through the city,
in foolish patterns and gray drops,
like puffy herons
in autumn swill.
The ledges wander sullenly between them,
and below – rusted windowsills,
and small horses –
of course, horses,
trample them with sharp little hooves.
But you do not attempt to grasp the Sansara
and small buds of solar symbols
in gasoline rings on swampy streets,
sorrowful streaks on dirty marble
and arched brows of bronze Amurs.
And simply slouched,
like all the rules
memorized in school geometry
and sit under mistletoe in Rodin’s pose
face to the cosmos and against the wind.