by Oksana Zabuzhko, 1992

Hello, dear. After the recent acid rains
the garden has turned rust colored again: the blackened cucumber vines
stick out of the ground, like scorched wire.
I am not sure that the orchard
will be better this year. I thought
if I just turned up the dirt, you know , cleaned it up -- but
to tell you the truth, I'm afraid to walk between the trees:
with every step I feel I'm closer to the spot
where a rotting carcass lies in the tall grass
swarming with worms, grinning in the sun.
                                       I'm afraid of strange sounds:
the day before yesterday in the thicket there were curious cries --
like meowing or the monotonous creaking of a tree
or the suppressed cackling of geese -- always on the same note.
Do you remember the dry elm -- the one
hit by lightning last year that now looks like a giant burned bone?
Well, sometimes I think that it
lords over the garden and the trees we planted
are slowly losing their minds, like mad dogs.
I don't know how mad trees behave,
maybe they "deroot" like trains derail. Anyway,
now I keep an ax near my bed at night, just in case.
The butterflies are mating: so there's still hope
we'll have caterpillars. The neighbor across the road
gave birth to a boy, well overdue they say:
had teeth and hair already, maybe it's a mutant, because yesterday
when he was only 9 days old he cried out:
                                       "Extinguish the sky!"
then fell silent and hasn't said a word since; otherwise -- he's well.
That's our news. If you find time
to get away for the weekend,
bring me something to read
in a language I haven't learned yet. I've exhausted the ones I know.
Kisses. Love, O.

translated from the Ukrainian by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps

zab6.doc 8/19/95

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