translation by Jonathan Brooks Platt
the moving space of the revolution
you think you’re Nekrasov or something, bitch?
war machines all along the roadside
the functionary of the whip
took a taste
little dialogues going on in a black bar
in butovo, golianovo, khimki
halted by knowledge
bought on sale
but my beloved isn’t sleeping
what will you do
but my lover isn’t sleeping
what should I tell him
a boy in a freshly bought che guevara t-shirt
thrashing about incoherently in a jail cell
in his face you can see a beast, a bear,
pieces of a wolf, a machine gun report
the hallways of our houses are covered with slime
livelihood leaves no space for life
and no strength to choose death
so they choose struggle
washing the bodies of the dead with the red nightmare
buying your son a toy out of inertia
hinting at war
but my beloved isn’t sleeping
she’s crossed over the barrier
but my lover isn’t sleeping
he’s already setting everyone free
though he says: the liberation narrative is dead
and this autumn the sacrificial smoke of animals will rise into the air
this autumn a pale fire
we gave ghosts the keys to our apartment
people with no savings come out to meet us
this autumn rips your heart out
it screams, “where is your heart?”
and everything inside burns
the body is a travelling puppet show of criticism, fury, horror
and there’s no impulse anymore
to tear off one’s shirt, to tear away and stomp down the wet highway
these are the words of someone who’s never known age
for someone who
never loved and died
the dream is over, Lesbia, now it’s time for sorrow,
time to throw off our rings and dresses at the bloody feast
in honor of the memory of our sisters
let’s smash our glasses!
o, Lesbia, the time of war has come,
time to buy guns from thick-set men
and hide a blade or a shiv in your macbook case
and move with clenched teeth through the dark fascist ranks.
o, Lesbia, our time lies snuggled up in a coffin,
its victim’s skull is split
and blood is pouring down his face, an indifferent gaze.
can you feel how my heart beats when you put your hand
on my breast, how the night weighs on us?
the time has come to tumble out drunk onto tverskaya, onto peace avenue
and embrace each other.
it’s a time when love and politics are one and the same,
while police and hate are something different.
where open lectures give way to lessons in street fighting,
where frosty breath turns into imaginary free universities
and the olympic bear is on his knees,
and next to him a child is on his knees,
I can see a razor in your hand, Lesbia, your hair is tangled, your gaze is mad.
so stop – our heart will live again!
looking our parents in the eyes, through a slap in the face, cutting across the yard,
flashing through police cordons,
leaving graffitti and poems,
Lesbia, rise! the time has come to sing a joyous song,
spitting blood and the tooth fairy,
covering our faces with our hands, ripping up the asphalt,
until our brothers, our friends, our parents
stand in a circle and shout: “opa! opa!”
I don’t know what books I should read,
what kind of political struggle I should practice,
when everyone around is neither living or dead,
colluding, establishing the kind of order in non-being
where they drag a piss-stained dick across your lips
behind a pile of lumber in the schoolyard: “now we’ll teach you right”
tonight neither living or dead,
when you know nobody’s language,
rise, Lesbia! enough, get off your knees!
rise, beloved of mine, even if it means death
and this feast, terrible and seedy, this meaty fare,
these worms on the heads of the “black junta”,
these chants and demonstrations, these blows and sobs –
everything will rot in the abyss.
I want to be yours,
Will you come in the nighttime?
The Tales of Ise
I’ll write you: today
we bought ground beef and a little bottle of rkatsiteli
we had just enough – and right away
I become small, become bigger,
I’ve been in the world of these things a long time,
like them, I am for them,
and they are for me,
boxes, shelves, cars
I’ll write you: but I feel –
a wooden door creaking in the wind – and I feel a burning
I feel a campfire above the river becoming brighter,
and other poetic contingencies – sharper, clearer.
I will write you something unbearable.
I’ll write you: today,
arriving in moscow from siberia,
and finding ourselves in the center of town, in the Lovers of Fortune supermarket,
looking at the people, in ironed t-shirts on top of everything,
and I feel – no, not “class hatred”,
some kind of unhealthy awe, as if I’m five years old,
some kind of dull, passive disgust,
also because I am there among them (without generalizing, but looking
directly at each one, examining them more intensely),
Fortuna! I want to be more rageful even than Pasolini in his poems,
but the state of poetic form today and overall
the state of any kind of resistance today, in which
it’s impossible to allow that kind of rage –
it’s invisible, unproductive.
there is nothing we can offer this history but victimhood,
nothing to offer but suicide.
I’ll write you!
directly into the abyss,
where the angels dig the earth,
cuts through desire like a crimson bough.
this blood soaks straight into the letter,
and the roses under my window
are beating their drums at night.
Jonathan Brooks Platt is Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of Pittsburgh. He specializes in Russian and Soviet literature, art, and culture. His publications include “Zoya Kosmodemianskaya between Sacrifice and Extermination” (2013), “Platonov, Incommensurability, and the 1937 Pushkin Jubilee” (2012), “The Poetics of Dry Transgression in Pushkin’s Necroerotic Verse” (2012), and “Foul Utopia: End of Modernity in Russian and American Art” (2008). His forthcoming monograph, Greetings, Pushkin!: Monumentalism, Eschatology, and the Russian Bard in 1937 examines the idiosyncratic temporality of Soviet discourses of modernity and aesthetics in the Stalin era. In 2014, as part of the Manifesta 10 Contemporary Art Biennial, he curated the four-day conference, No Radical Art Actions are Going to Help Here…: Political Violence and Militant Aesthetics after Socialism, including scholarly talks, literary readings, and artworks by contemporary Russian artists and intellectuals. He has translated the poetry of Kirill Medvedev, Roman Osminkin, Galina Rymbu, Pavel Arsenev, and Elena Kostyleva; artisic texts by Chto Delat, Natalia Pershina (Gluklya), and Anastasia Vepreva; and philosophical texts by Oxana Timofeeva, Aleksandr Pogrebnyak, and Andrey Platonov (with Robert Chandler).