Chinatown 1994
Translated by Ekaterina Chapiro © 2013


"... No capital letter here, but simple,
Lower case one, pay divided,
No beginning, in the Chinese quarter,
China here dissolves into United
States of North America, I also
Probably dissolve..." End quote provided.
Thus, or very likely thus, if ever,
In a shop of souvenirs and beads of amber
Ornaments of wax, of stone, of leather,
One may guess, is thinking an outlander.

(For an Aryan he seems too stocky,
Next to a Chinese looks slightly grander).
He paces round his shop, a rhythmic canter
On his foreign feet, quite like a dancer,
Rummages with hands of an outlander,
Through the sacks containing skulls and skillets,
Comes up with some melody, starts mumbling,
Frown upon his brow, his lips in movement.
Having thought it up, starts wildly fumbling
In his memory, but though he knows he is forgetting,

Doesn't write it down, just keeps on puzzling,
Lets it float away, although upsetting.
Paces, slow and rhythmic, stuck in limbo,
Curing sleepless, wakefulness offsetting,
Sometimes glancing at the darkness in the window,
With his foreign eyes he looks beyond it,
Shudders, and sees into inward darkness,
Talking nonsense all the while he handles
Pails of bird milk, or a grail of vodka,
Or a simple cup of tea upon the mantle.

Past the window there is a canal, an angel sailing,
And it's getting all the darker.
The outlander rubs the bronze with cotton,
Feels the candle holders, the display case,
He's not here, to memory recessed now,
Somewhere close to childhood, with a crumpet,
Closer to the thesis, palimpsest now,
To the tall bronze angel with a trumpet.
The dying light is putting him to rest now,
So close to his heart not one could trump it.

Closer to the Styx than the canal here,
He routinely step by step moves forward.
No beginning, just the lit chandelier,
Just a stranger having lost his calling,
In a shop where things are not as they appear,
Lower case font letter, from a line long started,
Carrying a stranger's old recalling.

Who is it, unhappy man, that keeps you thwarted?