Three Poems

Nina Iskrenko

from “Spheres”

Head little head bloodshed
Klavka grasska Kafka
in the spring comes the swallow
bashful edible travel
viscous pearly with a pin
with a mitten with a mousie without trousers
in Lyubertsa in the hearts in a dump truck
in the field of birch      in the Columned Hall
in the orchard      everyone is wonderstruck

        Are your nerves on fire?

The head has the form of a cube
of a loghouse      of sugar       of an unscrewed moon
of a fork of a ham of a stool
and of the doorman of an English club

/ the half-arsed kind /


The guys are under the lean-to discussing God
confusing some sort of nonsense with orthodoxy                        
I am sitting in the toilet      insides straining
insides shuddering
                as if bitten by the watchman’s dog

The guys are under the lean-to      under the rain      under the influence                 
attempting to express transcendentalism in the terms of fish out of water
occasionally interrupting the talk with the cries of a Siberian stag
and snatches of Soviet folk song

The guys
             one of whom is for some reason American
and three others just drowsy from shashlik and gushing patriotism
are unable to stop
             not having developed the topic completely
But in such heavy rain a good host won’t even put out a finger

I am sitting in the toilet          
                            dumbfounded by the assertions which
occasionally break through their drunken blather                         
/ If he says      you struggle all the time
                     then that’s already not Orthodoxy /
You just don’t see it      pardon me      in your Zurichs
                                                                  and Vermonts

But you only hear it
                sitting in the dacha’s plank closet
in the middle of the rain and the beds with lettuce and flowering strawberries

where on a line beats a handkerchief
                                        or a single sail
or an angel’s wing
disturbing the water in the medicinal bath
                                                          in the overcast dawn



Antigone freakish girl                                                       
What are you plotting under your comb
Who hit you with a concrete wall
You won’t even end in the works battalion
Why do you cling so to this carrion
Seen through the window heavenly thunder
Everywhere white shirts celebration
Under-Caesar smooth-talks from his paper
His know-alls stand at a distance
Crows stand over his enemy
He won’t be buried today
He won’t be You hear that Antigone
What a stink Perhaps close the window
Maybe you’re just an idiot
Who walks across a ski-jump
Kamikaze A crumpled cottonwool wad
In the throat of a triumphant trombone
Antigone look at your uncle
His feet are clodhopper’s feet
Antigone He even has claws
He has children you hear me scum
Pity the senile fool
What will his issue think of him
General-Secretaries Cardinals Fuhrers
Antigone he has tanks
You drunk daughter of incest
Of Tanya Larina and guerrilla-Zoia
As soon as they start their conniving
Your spleen will burst
Your ear will end in your mouth
As soon as they open the safe
Antigone There’s no kick
Their grey matter won’t seize
Or don’t you know the horoscope
Remember the gods favour Epigones
Huns horse-thieves and narks
Or have you gone blind without sleep
Well wake up your brother’s a bastard
And your groom is neither chicken nor egg
Whether from Thebes or Lubyanka
Achaian-trash are Achaian-trash
Little girl Perhaps you’re a snitch
A girlfriend of Lavrenti Beria
A biohormonal honey trap
Grabbing the cash for yourself
Or can’t you quit the needle                         
Or maybe it’s not all Freudian
Just that you’ve got a screw loose
You’re unhinged You want a cigarette?
Well think who you’re trying to be
Your hustlers ended the war
Your friends became whores Some people left
For the Peloponnese For the Metropolis
Take care Yes it only gets worse
Antigone In the world of antinomies
In the world of AIDS and camel meat
In the whim of public delirium
In the world of books animals expert opinions
Are you Anti-dove of Anti-peace
Or a dissident chimera
In the view of Sophocles and the Afghan             
In darkness in vain in desperation
In power in the emporium in the fountain
You with a shield or on a shield
Antigone who are you Antigone

translated from the Russian by Anne Gutt