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Four Poems

[Untitled] “if you close your eyes”

 

if you close your eyes

you can hear the sea

whether Black or Azov

you can’t tell immediately

 

a triumph of sound

the off season

naked beaches

we breathe it in

hold it in our lungs

without speaking

afraid to sing out of key

 

unleashing note after note

in perfect waves

the poplars swim away

a little further from heaven

from poetry’s idyll

 

nuts falling to the ground

smack their heads

and cry bitterly

 

 

[breakfast]

 

the bread you broke in two speaks in a human voice

one half in the voice of your mother

affirming she loves you

the dead love of a dead mother loves you

the dead love you

dead mothers love you

 

you sit silent and hiccup

you find the corpse of Yuri Gagarin in your pocket

you light a cigarette

 

the other half speaks in the voice of the girl you raped

affirming she’ll never, no way, ever love you

she wishes you dead and your mother

your fucking mother

the girl you fucked says hello to your fucking dead mother 

every morning on the radio

 

you sit silent and hiccup

you find the corpse of Gherman Titov in your pocket

you light a cigarette

 

await the prosecutor’s summation

 

 

[Untitled] “you stand in the middle of a completely foreign city”

 

you stand in the middle of a completely foreign city

in the middle of its most famous cemetery

you read the inscriptions in Polish

you hear the voices of Polish tourists

tombstone tombstone tombstone

they’re seeking someone’s death in Polish

you’re seeking someone’s death in Ukrainian

your relatives might’ve been buried here

if they hadn’t been forced to become echoes

to wander Donbas seeking death in Russian

so that all the while on the other side of Ukraine

a girl with long black hair

moves her lips translating the language of death

seeks inscriptions about your family in the cemetery

 

 

Ilya 

(from “People of Donbas”)

 

Why did you orchestrate a war at home

and run away to more normal cities—

the neighbors’ sticky-fingered spoons clap their hands

and pull hair after hair from my head

 

you’re guilty of everything—and I

think—what if they come to kill me

while I’m lying naked in the boat of this summer

without water electricity any kind of connection

 

no one will know what she died of

standing in the kitchen—and falling backwards

like sugar in a cup of paper wrath

 

and the uproarious sea of love throbbing in my temples

like the pocket flashlight of dreams with which I fumble

along walls of guilt—some people live in it

and they call my life a home as if it were alive

 

the steppe thorn of the sun doesn’t let me see myself

but I’m there somewhere—in the ash heap of smoldering photos

I kiss some sky before it starts to burn


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

(b. 1984) is the award-winning author of two poetry collections, A Little Further from Heaven (Podal’she ot raya) (2018) and The First Page of Winter (Persha storinka zimy) (2019); she writes in both Russian and Ukrainian. Kiva’s poems have appeared in English translation in AsymptoteLiterary HubLos Angeles Review of BooksWords Without Borders, and others.

Katherine E. Young is the author of the poetry collections Woman Drinking Absinthe and Day of the Border Guards and the editor of Written in Arlington. She is the translator of Look at Him by Anna Starobinets and Farewell, Aylis by Akram Aylisli. Young’s translations of contemporary Russophone poetry have won international awards; she was also named a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow (US). From 2016-2018, she served as the inaugural poet laureate for Arlington, Virginia, US. https://katherine-young-poet.com/

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