После детства 2000
Translated by Ekaterina Chapiro © 2013

After Childhood

I don't remember myself, but only
How regal trees stood erect and lonely
How treetops caught the sun, and the listless pond.
And how out-of-breath I had been that summer,
With a heavy stick I had fetched from somewhere,
Prodding a heavy fruit with it to respond.
  How high above me, so elemental,
  That thing called firmament shook and trembled,
  And how it loosened, ringing the heavy bells...
  While by my feet, so much closer to me,
  The disc-shaped Earth, feeling warm and roomy,
  Instead behaved itself rather well.

Blank memories, but between the spaces
They might peek through, from their hidden places,
Those somehow safeguarded arrows and home-made bow,
A souvenir from Kamchatka — bear claws,
Explosive mixes and hospital gauze,
A football somewhere in a fenced off area, how?...
   The dust swirls high, ricocheting gravel,
   Some random kicks send the ball to travel,
   Silhouettes mixed in a cloud of smoke...
   The winners saw that the rest looked burdened,
   And celebrated like little children,
   As if the game was more than a silly joke...

My mind's in potholes, but in the airways
I can discern black oil on the railways,
Single-track commuter crossing quest.
Between the willows, bright reddish rowans,
Us on the tracks, and we keep on going,
Along the canvass, loosely, at north-north-west.
   Our soles are light. Neutral ozone pressure.
   All is in order with speech and stature. 
   Looking great, exuding a dauntless air.
   Wind in our pockets, our eyes ignited,
   We are a multitude, much excited
   To go about our business without a care.

Why bring this up now? Of course, the rainfall,
The winter days — need you ask me at all?
For the times when birdsong has long died down.
For the long queues at the autumn grocer,
And then the frost and returning ulcer,
And then the snow, blank as the spaces in memory.
   Oh, light blue walls with small loop formations,
   Long lazy wastes of the school vacations,
   Thirteen years, perspiring, or getting sick.

   Times when a lighthouse would signal nothing,
   When only teenagehood barked out, frothing,
   Like a black Cerberus chasing a stick.

In those days, often, closing my textbook,
Harmful ambitions meant that I mistook
Myself for knowing the single truth.
And I concluded that signs and readings
Could not possibly have double meanings,
And that made me feel determinedly aloof.
   But then a week, maybe two weeks later,
   The signs and symbols would shift and alter,
   From A to B, and everywhere in between.
   And signs again became complicated.
   And I felt hopeless and deprecated.
   And my self-hatred grew stronger than it had been.

I do not have it much better these days,
But it is not of the adult free-ways
That I speak of, without drawing conclusions still...
Bridges go last — build the iron spine first.
Who we are now, I can somewhat outline,
But tell me this, friend, if you can answer at will.
   Tell me, smart-alec, who studies dolphins,
   Who tames the epos of grim-faced old Finns,
   Who knows every world leader's secret affairs...   
   Who were the ones on the sticky train tracks
   Still moving forward in countless rat packs,
   Going about their business without a care?