translation by Jane Bugaeva
This is what they say:
We came here from another book. But the stuff under us—the stuff that’s visible through the cracks of the wood floor in his house—it shows up uninvited and leaves when it’s asked to stay. Because that’s how you humans live your lives. You aren’t like us or other words: you don’t listen to anyone and were never intending to do so. And we don’t remember anything. Nothing. And yet we were called here to serve as a reminder. As a reminder of what? As a reminder that sometimes they come to people. It won’t necessarily be us. Not necessarily us, exactly.
And he can’t do anything about them. They inhabit his house. Sometimes they chase away its residents (sometimes they don’t), they talk to them, they make themselves food (but only themselves), they tease him and his dog (if, by chance, he has one). They read. They renovate. They stand by the window. They brew tea in a cup. They embrace each other. They exhale in their sleep. They do the dishes. They go for a walk. They’re startled by an unexpected sound. They sleep. They speak French. They sit on the floor. They pick the raisins out of a pastry. They lift their sleepy head off the pillow. They divide into pairs. They never leave the house unless it’s absolutely necessary. They take on things they know they aren’t capable of. They turn off the iron. They get better. They hold hands. They make promises they cant keep. They’re afraid. They look at the snow. They do homework. They speak quietly. They walk barefoot. They fight endlessly with each other. They talk during class. They look at a photograph and start to cry. They want to see an elephant. They’re born mute. They drink a lot. They shudder. They throw away the typewriter. They instantly fall asleep. They trumpet their ideas. They water the plants. They want to have children. They burn themselves on tea. They aren’t lone wolves. They refuse to install the intercom. They don’t eat prunes. They plop down on the couch. They do idiotic things. They have trouble sleeping. They live on the second floor. They look up, their heads flung backwards. They have a snowball fight. They file for divorce. They go to the beach with their kids. They weep. They’re late for the movie. They divide into groups of three. They come down with scarlet fever. They open the door. They forget to call. They caress their neck. The take the TV to get fixed. They purse their lips. They dream about long black trains of evacuees. They brush the dust off the bookshelf. They buy a pregnancy test. They look through the peephole for a long time before opening the door. They sit on the edge of the bed, staring into space. They race their spotted dog along the seashore. They take forever to get in line in the school auditorium. They hate November. They timidly kiss the corner of their hot lips. They crumble a cookie. They meet in the evenings. They smoke on the balcony. They freeze in front of a river. They rejoice with everyone. They go to the sea once every few years. They see squirrels in the park. They get very tired. They wait six months for elective surgery. They hold the door open as they exit the subway. They walk along, without looking back. They get a new passport. They tense up a bit when they catch sight of an old acquaintance on the street. They strain to hear the sound of a passing train at sunrise. They become upset. They unwrap a piece of candy. They validate a tram ticket. They drink what’s left. They stare coldly. They try to remember the last time they were happy. They get in line. They ask questions. They lose track of time. They freeze, when they hear their name called. They doodle on a napkin while talking on the phone. They start with what’s easiest. They turn the pillow over and try to fall asleep. The squint in the sun. They learn a foreign language. The turn the page. They press pause. They try the milk to see if it has gone sour. They look at the water. They go camping. They forget to take their pill. They barely make ends meet. They dial the wrong number. They take pictures together. They tongue a chipped tooth. They sleep until 12:30 PM. They say idiotic things. They try to make sense of everything. They put their open umbrella in the corner of the entryway. They stand hugging for a long time. They can’t make out the name of the medicine on yesterday’s prescription. They run down the stairs so they can jump on the train in time. They press their foreheads together. They understand that it’s of no use anyway. They defrost the fish. They leaf through a magazine someone left behind. They move the dresser. They stand at the kitchen window for a long time after having done the dishes. They collect red and yellow maple leaves at the end of September. They go to an exhibition. They always forget to wash that sweater. They memorize a poem about the motherland. They know it’s their father coming home from work by the jingle of his keys as he gets them from his bag when he enters the apartment building. They pet the upset cat. They get lost in an unfamiliar city. Their goodbye last longer than their acquaintance. They hum cartoon theme songs to themselves. They twist and scream in the dark. They snap their fingers. They misspell simple words. They lean down to kiss. They search for the right word. They try to remember the exact moment everything changed. They forget their coat at a party. They water the plants. They take them into their arms. They take a cigarette out of the pack. They get their medical records. They take the stairs to the third floor. They worry about everything all at once. They’re off to their dacha as soon as the snow melts. They hold them close. They open another pack. They put the kettle on. They cry when they come across a letter they were searching for from last year. They plan their next weekend. The change in the bedroom. They ask for directions. They cover their face with their hands. They commute from work. They tell themselves that everything is going to be fine. They try not to eat sweets. They don’t get people at all. They swim. They stay the night. They smile, despite it all. As they land, they distinctly hear the word appeal in their head. They swing on the swings. They strike a match. They wade in the shallow waters of the gulf. They ask themselves, how they became the person they are. They lick a copper coin to remember what it tastes like. They’re annoying to others. They stick out their tongue. They exhale smoke. They stick out their right hand as they fall. They don’t like sincere confessions. They consider themselves useless. They can’t let each other go. They stroke a dying fish. They can easily do 12 to 13 pull-ups. They drink from the water fountain on a hot day. They close the curtains. They never talk about what’s actually important. They’re proud of a job finished. They try to speak clearer. They barely touch it with the tips of their fingers. They have a hard time holding a book in their hands. They try to think only positive thoughts. They love shortbread cookies with plum compote. They’re completely certain that they’ve yet to make anyone genuinely happy. They drag a heavy suitcase into the train car. They never speak ill of their exes and especially not of their current partners. They suddenly notice a red swordfish untangling itself from the light green undergrowth in the aquarium. They can’t read their own handwriting from 20 years ago. They don’t eat bread or sugar for 6 months at a time. They taste the blood from a cut on their finger. They disengage the safety. They wait for someone to take pity on them. They wake up at 4AM on January third and look out the window at the barely lit street. They remember the smell of photo-developing solution. They stay for good. They whisper in front of everyone. They touch themselves. They order new glasses. They hate to be interrupted. They’re barely able to say it, before. They rarely sleep with someone for love. They take home an old transistor radio that their neighbors had thrown out. They brush their teeth for 5 minutes longer than prescribed. They don’t re-read old letters if possible. They get in the way. They throw a freshly-made snowball into the darkness of the yard at random. They leave funny notes on the fridge in the mornings as they run out the door to work. They’re very scared of going to the dentist. They turn the key. They take a cold shower, if needed. They dig through their purse for a long time standing in the stairwell. They don’t check their mailbox for weeks. They never stay for long. They refer to love astenderness and leave it at that. They drink tea with milk. They remember everything they were taught. They rarely really forgive. They understand a lot more than it seems. They get cold. They wake up first. They walk in the wrong direction upon leaving the house. They leave forever. They give alarming and demanding gifts. They propose a walk. They invite people over for dinner. They leave without taking you home. They don’t understand Russian. They unlock the door with their keys. They stay. They wake up at 4AM. They don’t love. They daydream while getting yesterday’s salad out of the fridge. They lay on their back in the dark after opening their eyes. They try to blindly follow a tear’s path—towards the earlobes, via pulsating, wet temples. They don’t eat prunes. They’re always late. They don’t forgive themselves anything. They never rely on luck. They don’t expect anyone’s help. They try not to cross the street on red. They’re rarely sick. They take a long time selecting three apples. They love their kids and other people’s pets. They live like people. They open their eyes. The turn off the lights.
Stanislav Lvovsky was born in 1972 and graduated from the Chemistry Department of Moscow State University. After obtaining his degree, he moved into advertising, journalism. Now he works in culture events management. Stanislav Lvovsky is an editor-in-chief for the “Literature” section of OPENSPACE.RU, the only Internet media in Russia focused entirely on culture. Lvovsky published a poetry collection, White Noise (Beliy shum), in 1996, a collection of short stories, A Word on Flowers and Dogs (Slovo o tsvetakh i sobakakh), in 2003, a mixed collection of poetry, translations and prose poetry, Three Months of the Year 2 (Tri mesyatsa vtorovo goda), in 2003, a poetry collection, Poems about the Motherland (Stikhi o Rodinye), in 2004, a poetry collection “Camera Rostrum” in 2008 and a novel, Half of the Sky (Polovina neba) (in co-authorship with Linor Goralik in 2004). He is also the author of a number of translations from English (Vytautas Pliura, Charles Bukowsky, Leonard Cohen, Diane Thiel and others), both published and unpublished. His play “Sixplays” written together with Linor Goralik was staged in Moscow-based “Theatre.doc”.
Jane Bugaeva translates poetry and children’s literature from Russian. Her translations can be found in The Massachusetts Review and Cardinal Points. Her first book length translation, Catlantis by Anna Starobinets, is forthcoming in 2015 from Pushkin Press. She is thankful to Polina Barskova, who encouraged and inspired this translation.