Four Poems

Alina Dadaeva

The City slept.
Only greasy beards of aqsaqals
prickled at its crown,
a throat like the down of rotting quince.
And along the roads
shaggy gorgons on twisted trunks
brushed their heels in water,
unwittingly spilt from the sky.
The bath on Old Moscow Street
—or rather its remains—
with ghostly steam and pails.
An instant—and all will subside.
Only the scent of hennaed hair
will linger.

Leaving home toward evening
with a volume of Stone
or Irving,
and you tear through violets littered at the doorway
like a stolen thief.
The swollen eye of the stoplight
blinks indifferently in back.
Sleep, exhausted keeper of crossings—
one-hundred headed Gorinich
of car scales
that soon forget the eternal city.
That soon forget the eternal.
Injured, thoughts,
joined or separated,
all cling to death,
though coated in make-up and smiles.
As if it suddenly smelled—
spring-like—turtles everywhere!
an arc in the sky,
turned away, probably,
from misfortune.
And zeros hover across it—
a luckless Vincent sketch.

Little boy, sliding from line of light
to line of scroll,
where letters of black
tangle together, like blackened chains
tangle together, like clinging leaves.
Little boy stooping, leaning, balding.
Little boy swallowing clear drops.
And at his temples two wilting lilies,
white wilting lilies;
a handful of rice.

Two centuries in a rental apartment,
quietly moving furniture
from corner to corner
and bare walls
pasted over in fashion,
the red-haired demon,
he thirsts for different songs,
Soviet string bags,
bitter rowan berries.
He has an ailing liver.
And at night
he cries for mama—
both that one and this one,
and both pitifully.
Two centuries ago
his ancestor
made an immutable vow
to wander
under the heat of the crackling sun
and all summer
drink pale tea
from a clay bowl.
Tired and swarthy,
with a tufted beard,
he asks to go home.
But this strange summer does not end.

translated from the Russian by Alex Niemi