by Serhiy Zhadan, 2004

in the senior citizens home yuri andukhhovych
is a seventy year old cranky writer
the author of half-forgotten detective novels
cared for by the city and the writers' union
with a mountain of obsessions
with moths in his pajama pockets
beaded bracelets on his knotty wrists
razors and forks scattered around the room
he adjusts the hands of the clock to autumn
exhales and listens to this voice-over:
salman rushide -- indian
yuri andrukhovych - ukrainian
if you haven't screwed up
the poetry of your nation can be understood by others
without translation
even if you don't give a shit

thirty years without war
thirty years without a future
thirty years of old time music

            writing into the void
in a country with agricultural oomph
here are your suitcases
your kidneys
your literature

when you pass 64
when your blood slows down and has to think
where it should flow next
the sewing machine of the universe cries till dawn
spinning its tired mechanisms
not stopping
for even a moment

so morning comes to the windows of the senior citizens home
and the sky is brown after the rain
and fish lie on the frying pan like
lovers on a hot august bed
and yuri andrukhovych known to everyone by sight here
looks through yesterday's papers and
highlights his own name with a marker
highlights the ideas he likes
highlights the names of friends who have died
highlights interesting radio shows
for the coming week

a bunch of words and passers-by
only a dachau left of this whole generation

and walking out for breakfast
he notices among other things:
the warm air
the dry air
too bad there are no birds
but there were never any
in this barrack


translated from the Ukrainian
by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps

Zhadan-ballads-04.doc 10/10/05