Monday, January 5, 2015

Katia Kapovich

Pot Luck

We had thought that damage wasn’t exactly people,
that what didn’t kill us merely made us stronger,
that the forbidden fruit was Newton’s apple.
Guys, it is time to candidly give the finger
to all those who would have us believe this garbage.
A live jackdaw is better off than a fallen eagle.

Guys, for five years our asses sit in the desert,
our eyes filled with sand and marihuana smoke.
Remember the fellow who, like a lizard,
lost his tail on a mine field? What a shock
it was when he burst out laughing. What was it
that he groped for mumbling, “Where are my socks?”

Guys, it’s not funny when out of the thick yellow
nowhere, out of the purple nothing
death strikes, cutting off your legs, and swallows
your brain whole like a roasted marshmallow.
Guys, let us say it out loud without blushing:
we’ve gotten mortally sick of this affair.

We are human meat marinated in this pot luck.
Who will give a shit if they fry us or if they fly us
up the sky? No one will. It is late o’clock.
Mars is stuck in retrograde, and so is Venus.
Kindly duct-tape your mouth and humbly await darkness,
while digesting the camp fires on an empty stomach.

It’s stupid to wake up asking the morning square
of the window whether this day will be the last one.
Quit shaving, guys! They say that human hair
keeps growing after death, but dead men
take no comfort in the fact that the foam
is needless now, and the razor, and the mirror.


A linguistics professor in an old
moth-eaten coat, he traveled to the north
with his wife on her charity trips,
talked Inuit to folks in the cold,
caught a dog-sled ride through the wilderness,
gave the musher a generous tip.

Now he comes out with his flat-nose shovel,
tosses snow left and right,
throws salt along the slippery driveway,
with me nearby stuck like a lamppost,
hands in pockets, groggy after a sleepless night,
unwilling to fight for survival.

Let it snow three times, as in that old song.
Someone rewind my mind and dust the screen.
I am the one who confuses everything:
right and left, “safari” and “satori,”
the color yellow and his brother green.
I want isolation to be absolute,
like a dialogue between the blind and the mute.

Bilingual Russian poet Katia Kapovich was born in Chişinău, Moldova. In Soviet Russia, she was a member of a samizdat dissident group, which led to repeated arrests and difficulty publishing her work, so she immigrated to Jerusalem in 1990 and then to the United States in 1992.  She is the author of several collections of Russian poetry, and her poetry in English includes Cossacks and Bandits (2008) and Gogol in Rome (2004). Her work has also been featured in the anthology Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry (2003, edited by Billy Collins).

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