Take immortality, God, but give
me this cold apple cellar. Take the souls
and other toys, but let us live: not-Adam and not-Eve not your son’s—
my son’s life.
Wet hole in a cellar
with wooden floor—is a Promised Land.
But no, we need cement floors
and the smell of cats and mattresses and a bunch
of soiled blankets. The city breathes though they poke us with missiles’ needlework.
Watch: a mad tailor makes of a city a headless costume without
hands. This is your human being, God, and not
a retail display mannequin.
The future is a door of mud
glass, the color of raw diamond.
This door opens inside
my chest every moment.
Each breath in
is a breath out,
sometimes not at all.
In a time of war
the future jumps out
like a frog, no, a grasshopper—
and there is nothing: no future—
just emptiness, pulsating.
In peacetime: the epoch licks us off
in measured strokes
now the mad teeth of a Kremlin gremlin
chew on us.
And our land is decorated with bloodied fragments
of cement walls.
I see a soldier’s hat
diving in snow after my neighbor Miss Valya.
The murderers are lit
from inside by the saliva
of their sick ideas.
I see them twelve miles off.
As the thoughts jump like pebbles
on thick ice,
the breath turns into a white seaweed.
We are holding hands
while night hungry like an animal sniffs at balconies,
eyes whiten: is
anyone here alive?
The walls of this town are tossed out of the ground with their roots,
the staircases are torn up like unfinished
The body on the asphalt is a black-red sleeping bag—
is that a person? I don’t know.
Is that a person?
The evening jumps.
We have no place on this earth, you and I, God,
but you can’t drown in the sea of blood, sea
free of people. Watch:
these centipedes of tanks crawling on
their mechanical knees
won’t swallow this street, that street, this street.
Translated by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky