HISTORY OF CULTURE AT THE TURN OF THIS CENTURY
by Serhiy Zhadan, 2002
You will reply today, touching warm letters,
leafing through them in the dark, confusing vowels with consonants,
like a typewriter in an old Warsaw office.
The heavy honeycombs
glisten with gold from which language is spun.
Don’t stop, just write,
type over the empty white space, stamp through the black silent trail.
No one will return from ramblings through the long night,
and forgotten snails will die on wet grass.
Central Europe lies under tissue white snow.
I always believed in the lazy movements of Gypsies,
not everyone has inherited this worn coin.
If you look at their passports,
which smell of mustard and saffron,
if you hear their worn-out accordions,
which reek of leather and Arabic spices –
you’d hear them say that when you leave -- no matter where you go --
you only create more distance and will never be any closer than you are now;
when the songs of old gramophones die,
a residue seeps out
from damaged cans.
The overburdened heart of the epoch bursts every morning,
but not behind these doors, not in cities burnt by the sun.
Time passes, but it passes so near that if you
look closely, you can see its heavy warp,
and you whisper overheard sentences
and want someone someday to recognize your voice and say --
this is how the era began,
this is how it turned –awkward, heavy like a munitions truck,
leaving behind dead planets and burnt out transmitters,
scattering wild ducks in the pond,
that fly off and call louder
than the truckers,
When choosing your course of studies you should find out
among other things --
if the culture at the turn of this century
has already pressed itself into the veins of your slow arm,
rooted itself in the whorls of your thick hair,
carelessly blown by the wind,
and tousled by fingers
like streams of warm water in a basin,
like colored clay beads over cups and ashtrays,
like a vast autumn sky
over a cornfield.
translated from the Ukrainian
by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps
links to more poems by Serhiy Zhadan