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Poems


Viking Breath



How does it feel to be the Cultural Attaché
for the North Pole, the ice
of the voiceless?
No encyclopaedia will give you shelter.
As life drifts by, the waters ache
and pallid faces stare from every porthole.

Winter is inside us, it’s tasty
like a sea onion.
Who will get the first bite?
Crunchy things surround us:
the shore, the bleak frosty sun,
the clouds glistening like Santa’s beard.

Amundsen has sailed into a greater crispness.
Penguins are chanting defiant slogans
outside our red tents.
What are we waiting for?
What is sprouting up
in our hoar-frosted hearts?


(First published in Rose Red Review No 15, 2015)




The Ninth Count of Monte Cristo


swims across Lago Maggiore
into forgiveness.
His revenge, a flooded village;
his harem, oysters.
Italians excel in retrieving deadwood,
so hope is always behind the next
wave crest.

Scientists crave simplicity.
In every lightning, there’s God,
in every smile, a sea flag.
Clemenceau surrendered to the wind,
De Gaulle adjusted his sails
but the swimmer avoids a rendezvous
with his rippled soul.

Meanwhile, the opposite bank
is slipping farther away with each
passing hour. Air currents
spell the art of decay.
The Count’s old watch is dead.
The time it’s been gathering for years
comes gushing out.


(First published in The American Journal of Poetry, Vol. 1, 2016)




Hunting in Flagged Vicitities 

(For Gail Hazelton) 


When you kill wolves 
some people die 

It is always the case 

they bury the corpses 
together with the wolves 

long after 
they exhume them 
and re-bury them wrapped in flags 

each time they take the flags 
from the living 

the latter squat 
and cry a lot 
naked 
shielding with both hands 
not what naked people usually shield 

but some spots of wild greyish wolfskin 
on their breasts and withers 


(First published in ''The SHOp'', Ireland) 




Somewhere in Eastern Europe 


It was the year the townsfolk
shaved off their hair
believing that bad thoughts were
getting trapped in it.

The hairstylists were banned
from the area. The grey-winged
hens of Palawy laid their eggs
all around the town.

After school, I worked my way home
through hair-drifts. My grandmother
acquired the strange habit of tearing away
the last page of my school compositions.

She assured me that one day
I would understand why. My grandfather
often said that she intended to tear away
the last page of his life.

He left her and started floundering
through the side-streets of women’s hair.
Unhatched chickens laughed at him
from inside their speckled eggshells.

I was advised not to mention my parents
either at school or at home.
“You'll learn to forget” my teacher
comforted me. “You'll live a good life.”


(First published in Plume Magazine) 




Marinetti Talks


In the vineyard of language
he lives a second life
as a scarecrow, well-dressed
and admirably arrogant.

“For gods and poets, nothingness can be productive”
he lectures to coming generations of ingenious
narcissists. “Thorough reworking is a sine qua non.
Think cities. Think swarms.”

The future world stands naked
before his eyes.
The tree of possibilities
is flush with blossoms.

“Leave modesty to the modest”
he sleeks the straw of his speech.
“Let people appropriate and use
the best parts of you.”

Symbols of space assemble themselves
into battle scars.
He is at war
against his words.

“Be the loudest mouth on Earth”
he addresses the vultureful void.
“Only then will they stop
listening to you.”


(First published in The American Journal of Poetry, Vol. 1, 2016) 




Lost in the Flow of Time

(For Tomaž Šalamun)


Names and butterflies flutter around
while the literati picnic on the grass.
Oblivion oozes its way through

black holes. A few centuries
drowned here. The civilisation theatre
closes shutters and cuts off

the last sunbeam. From a time-warp,
out comes the centennial dusk and shapes into
the words: “In fact, the world was a dwarf.”

How many millennia
have been missing?
Are we living in phantom time?

As we wave the cerulean flags
of everyday, volumes of poetry
gather dust on the shelves

in the library of unwritten books,
into which unborn authors
are exclusively admitted.

Our boats are nearing the mouth of the
great river, and only the dents on their sides
can tell us about its headwaters.


(First published in The Missing Slate) 





Out of Harm’s Way

I.m. Daniel Harms, the Russian absurdist writer


Motorists own imaginary and non-existent things,
such as distances and remote countries.
Stepping on the accelerator,
they hasten the pace of a clock,
but time has to wait for slumbrous planes
pausing in the clouds.

Pedestrians own meadows and riverbanks.
Dawn and twilight mix colours for them;
the whole horizon encircles their eyeballs.

Here, amidst the monotony of some German town,
time splits into grains of memory
and I plunge into the quicksands of déjà vu.
It seems to me that I am trodding the streets
of quite another German town.
The day has hidden its colours,
frames of a static theatre mist up
and everything fades into grey,
comes to a halt.
Madness is never far away …

The next thing I see is a signboard:
“HARMS, THE FIXER. CALL ME ON 92 27 11.”

I ponder on the multitude of towns and countries
plagued with absurdity –
and there isn’t a lot of such signs around!

Then the roaring of a motor pushes slightly
the frozen minute-hand.


(First published in Landing Places, Dedalus Press, 2010) 




Pseudoaluminium and the Big Plans 


The bigger the house,
the smaller the occupants.

The same goes for the devil:
in huts, he used to oust the inhabitants,
while in skyscrapers he can humble himself
into a snuff-box.

The devil gradually loses prestige.
His dung, however, still ornaments the fields.

They send students
to investigate this red clay.
They hope, it contains
plenty of pseudoaluminium,
the raw material of super-high-speed bombers
and portrait frames.  



(First published in The Night in the Nabokov Hotel, Dedalus Press, 2006)




Judas


He slurps the blue sky jelly.
Crickets chirr in his beard;
a little ugly planet swells inside him.

He unrolls the scroll that reads:
“If you give birth to pebbles,
they will grow into mountains.”

Tin whistle music sprinkles yew trees
with silver. He’s the world’s broken rib.
He’s alive. He is.


(First published in Shot Glass Journal) 




Dream House, please keep out


It‘s an empty house,
the house that once built a family
which is no longer a family.

in the drawing room
desert life
in the library
Gurdjieff’s music
for distorted piano


Broken stairs were
impossible to climb.

in the kitchen
canned oblivion
in the cellar
an extinct volcano


They were stuck in the upstairs rooms
and had to use a fishing-rod
to hook out some food
through the kitchen window.

in the bath
mirror fish
in the bedroom
clouds


There was only one chair left there,
and they were taking turns
sitting on it.

for a foundation
Rock of Ages
for a roof
an open book
turned upside down



(First published in Ken*again) 




Bunin: Portrait with the Person Missing


In the mirror behind his back 
recent times are floating 
red flags and standards of the Cossacks 
his reflection 
a hollow silhouette 

into the space he left 
a man is being squeezed 
he can''t go in, groans 
than somehow manages - 

and the framework of parallels and meridians 
cracks all over the globe 


(First published in ''Cyphers'', Ireland) 




Structuralism: An Assay 


Water can be separated
into oxygen and hydrogen.

A man decomposes into the skeleton
and other people’s memories.

An empire splits into nostalgia
and a common language.

But a stone breaks up into stones. 



(First published in Revival)



Four Poems in Otoliths

Three Poems in The American Journal of Poetry

Two Poems in The Honest Ulsterman

Three Poems in Shot Glass Journal

A Poem in Rose Red Review

Prose Poems translated from Russian here









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