by Serhiy Zhadan

… remember how winter began in your town,
how everyone who dared to stay and live
lived, clinging to the snow and air,
lived, struggling to stay alive;
how all your friends
tried to turn the tides of time away from you
but the first wave swept over them,
scorching them on the inside, sending them reeling around the world,
how each had his back broken by the morning rays
wanting to do what he wanted,
but not knowing how yet.

To get over a difficult winter, climb out of a deep depression on long, railroad cars;
stories, you can’t unravel,
love, you can’t get used to;
in fleeting shadows, in tunnels, canals,
depots, oil tankers
what – tell me – what can I do without you
in this emptiness filled
with your absence, your unwritten letters,
our unspoken conversations, unseen heavens,
imperceptible warmth, non-existent god;
it turns out I don’t have my own habits,
all our habits were shared;
anyway, what kind of habits can you have in this snow,
which I can’t get used to.

How did this winter begin? --
there they lay in bed,
sleeping through classes,
losing the battle,
overhead only roof and sky,
no one knows which they need more now.

            Barges bound for Yugoslavia float by,
            angels repair the buoys.
            And the trees stretch upwards,
            to be closer to him, when he calls.

            In the morning the vegetables are brought into town,
            and the sand glows gold in the
sun, mixed with blood and vermouth
on the lips and shirts of the workers.

You’ll never be free of these criminals,
never get used to this country,
never forget about the inevitability of death,
never remember her explanations.

translated from the Ukrainian by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps

zhad2-4.doc   10/20/07


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