Vasyl Makhno

Berlin

translated from Ukrainian by Olena Jennings

 

the poem you wrote with a fox’s claw
on the way to Berlin – and about which you were silent
and now you say: here it is, catch
that’s why I keep this house and its transparent walls
where I settled with you
in the thistle’s light – and the light of the grass

Berlin isn’t there – neither is Herman Hesse
golden rapeseeds scattered through the hair of a poet
a fox’s dreams – simple Berliners
and how is it possible to live with the poem – what kind of witness is it
and what kind of scarves and capes are these?
and winter in the German province?

and so you are collecting leaves with a fox’s claw
and so you throw a military coat over your body
and you write a poem and read it
and the scent of bakery cuts through Berlin
by the airport of every letter
you breathe air and gasoline

and if life is details and everything is in the details
and if you asked me about your poem
a poem is a coat thrown over your body
I ask: what is the address of the hotel? – you forgot
I ask: in which part of town is it? – you don’t hear
do you at least know where you landed?

and if I go to your Berlin
and if I warm your cold knees
and if in the morning we didn’t make our flight
you will laugh and say: what a waste
and is it possible to write a poem
without the address of the hotel – you get cities mixed up

 

 

 

 

Vasyl Makhno is a Ukrainian poet, prose writer, essayist, and translator. He is the author of thirteen collections of poetry, most recently  A Poet, the Ocean, and Fish (2019) He has also published a book of short stories House in Bating Hollow (2015) and three books of essays The Gertrude Stein Memorial Cultural and Recreation Park (2006) and Horn of Plenty (2011), Suburbs and Borderlands (2019), two plays Coney Island (2006) and Bitch/Beach Generation (2007). He has also translated Zbigniew Herbert’s and Janusz Szuber’s poetry from Polish into Ukrainian, and edited an anthology of young Ukrainian poets from the 1990’s. His writing is widely translated in many languages. Collections of poetry, prose and essays books appeared in Poland, Serbia, Israel, Romania, and USA. He is the 2013 recipient of Serbia’s Povele Morave Prize in Poetry and BBC Book of the Year Award 2015. Makhno currently lives in New York City.

 

Olena Jennings is the author Songs from an Apartment (Underground Books, 2017) and Memory Project (Underground Books, 2018.)  Her translations of Ukrainian poetry appear in the anthology Words for War (Academic Studies Press, 2017, in collaboration with Oksana Lutsyshyna), the anthology White Chalk of Days (Academic Studies Press, 2017,) Poetry International, and Wolf.   Her translations of Iryna Shuvalova’s poetry collection in collaboration with the author, will be released in fall 2019 by Lost Horse Press. She is 2018 recipient of a New Work Grant from the Queens Council of the Arts.  She is the curator of the Poets of Queens reading series.

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