ELEGY FOR URSULA
by Serhiy Zhadan, 2002
Boats loaded with Spanish garlic
enter the port after a long voyage home
encrusted with barnacles like false gold.
I know – last night
dry sheets smelled of
sailors’ overalls and tar till dawn;
stars fell on the shore like never before
and boats, evading buoys,
ran between your fingers till you woke up.
What did you see before you died?
The constant stream of air doesn’t allow
you to stop breathing, and your constant breath
doesn’t allow you to pause as you cross the border.
What can you see at the end
when you are about to die?
Somewhere in the north an iceberg formed,
as the innermost parts of the heart
grew cold at dawn and froze.
Did you notice the snow in the mouths
of fish jumping out of the water?
And did you recognize that river
that flows below the rocky landscape
resembling a pile of heavy wet
I remember so many names
which no one mentions in the present tense anymore,
so many names, which when pronounced
fill the mouth with blood and snow.
I don’t know if I dare talk about you in this way;
I think death is like walking from one
empty room into another
creating a gust that rips out the electrical sockets
and chills the blood of those who remain.
And brave young birds with weather-beaten hearts,
waves on northern lakes that remain neck deep
because they don’t dare roll onto the shore,
tall trees – deprived of leaves, like citizenship:
return to the place where time’s lackluster pearls harden on eyelashes,
where sweet tobacco and seaweed grow on sand,
where every morning cabin boys from sunken ships gather
without betraying their flags or finding peace
and over them soar the souls
of mangled oranges.