Ludmila Khersonsky – translated by Valzhyna Mort
“How to describe…”
How to describe a human other than he’s alone –
what to add that he himself won’t guess to add?
Pockets full of posies? A little lamb for Mary?
What else is there to cast at a man?
A human is alone whether he dies or
snores. What else to say about a sleeping man?
A man is sleeping or simply turned to a wall?
A man turned to a wall not to see his nation.
Another turned to a wall between four walls,
a man who turned to a wall, weary of war.
Ear of the war: so much noise from a single man,
as if a whale was birthed into a common shell,
as if fear was trapped in the heart’s punchbag.
A lonely human is dust,
where to run from dust?
Where the nose points? But a person needs lunch.
A roof over his head, a sun over his head, and also to laugh.
Blood over his head, and also to bleed,
one man for all man.
No man for one man. Anybody? No one.
A man in trouble, in death, in office, in line,
in vogue, in disguise, in fight: everywhere alone.
A brown-haired man, a redhead, a blond,
a white man, a black man, a rainbow-man,
one person: singled red with sorrow, by one wall.
“When a country…”
When a country of – overall – nice people
turns – slowly – fascist,
nice people do not notice this transformation all at once.
As when a person we know intimately
goes, next to us, through
an imperceptible process of aging. Imperceptibly, new wrinkles
slice the skin, frightening, deep.
Nice people nod when they run into each other,
and try, more and more, to lower their eyes,
until finally, raising them becomes an inhuman act.
“A country in the shape of a puddle…”
A country in the shape of a puddle, on the map.
Any country is an easy target in March,
in June, July, August, September, October,
as long as it rains
and maps litter the street.
Stop, who goes there, General Oaken Knees.
Red Square of his naked chest shines the way.
And behind him, a half-shadow, half-man,
half-orphan, half-exile, whose mouth is as coarse
as his land –
double-land where every cave is at war.
Do you say there won’t be a war? I say nothing.
A small gray person cancels
this twenty first century,
adjusts his country’s clocks
for the winter war.
«She dreamed a humanitarian convoy…»
She dreamed a humanitarian convoy entered the city.
Covered with a sheet head to toe, she sleeps, tucking her knees,
always on her right side, while a wall watches her back,
this is how one sleeps in the time of
This is how in all times
all tribes sleep,
waking only from silence, silence is a threat,
during silence, do not open
your door –
they are there, humanitarians with their inverted eyes.