by Serhiy Zhadan, 2002

In cheap Berlin hotels run by Russians
there are no candies in the lobby and in the rooms – of course –
no envelopes with the hotel’s logo,
tubs yellow with age
hide fish and scorpions,
the frequent guests have seen life
and have many tales to tell before they collapse
on the bed with their liquor and old cigarette holders.

While they talk and chew the sliced ham
bought in the store across the street,
the ash from their cigarettes falls on the bed,
snow on a port city,
the moon manages to move from the street corner closer to the church,
and the cleaning ladies start their morning rounds
to find condoms in showers
and towels smeared with blood.

One day a man takes a room
in one of these hotels, he shows his student ID
to register and locks himself in his room.
In the morning they bring him breakfast and he
takes the tray, then, without taking off his clothes or shoes,
gets into the tub and turns on the water.

The cleaning ladies gossip about this endlessly
since they found him the next day
and called the police.
Did he have to swallow so many pills
to simply drown in the water?
See, death can smell of
Turkish coffee,
and what should we do after this.

Cities torn apart by the cravings of lonely women,
the moon covered with the saliva of young immigrants --
everything they talk about, all the stories they have to tell,
every gulp and every puff,
is only an excuse to continue the endless conversation.

Few guess at the limits of the visible world,
especially in this room with its toaster and night light,
from which there is no return and no explanation,
you will not listen to the frightened cleaning lady
who first entered the room
and saw the wet currency and black dolphins
float in the water
as spiders and angels descended
from the ceiling on thin webs
to throw rose petals
into the chlorinated water.


translated from the Ukrainian
by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps

links to more poems by Serhiy Zhadan