To accompany our issue Trafika Europe 13 – Russian Ballet, we’re pleased to present a series of Trafika Europe Corner columns featuring poetry from several Russians that didn’t make it into our journal.
Our first is Andrey Gritsman, a Moscow native who emigrated to the US in 1981. He is a physician, poet and essayist and has published seven volumes of poetry and essays in Russian. He received the 2009 Pushcart Prize Honorable Mention XXIII and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize several times between 2005 and 2008.
His poems, essays, and short stories in English have appeared in over eighty literary journals and have been anthologized. His latest forthcoming volumes are Family Chronicles (Poetry) and Stranger at Home (essays and short prose).
He also edits the international poetry magazine in Russian http://magazines.russ.ru/interpoezia/ (in Russian language) and hosts the Intercultural Poetry Reading Series at Cornelia Street Café in New York City.
Here are three poems by Andrey Gritsman.
CROSSING THE LINE
The world was glistening inside my soft universe
in the filigreed web of warmth,
pulsating and feeding my unborn hopes,
tentacles of attachments, frustrations, death.
I could have been a father, a sister,
carpenter, savior, the judge, an executioner.
My actuarial survival
was not yet registered.
The winds of unknowing
caressed my mother’s skin.
And the pain was vanishing
because I did not exist anymore.
I was not accounted for.
And still, brothers and sisters,
we were bonded and floating together
in the shared hardship.
For only you could appreciate
my gift to you:
my silent grace, the gentle beauty, dignity
and what I would not have done to the world.
And remember, there are others
for whom not only I
but also you
are a mistake.
on two distant coasts.
Coastal life variable, escaping.
Steel light in the morning
hint of moss in the air.
Smell of distant fisheries
Seven potato dishes on the menu.
All is not what it seems.
We both know that—
I lost you as we lose
everything eventually moving away
into the open sea
from the distance,
passing through nobody’s waters,
no knowledge predicted.
Love, still barely visible
far away, the only
in the primordial chaos.
for Marina Tsvetaeva
Flood of Kama River, Volga, Toima, thousands of lakes
beyond horizon all the way
to Nizhnevartovsk, suffocating smoke
of chemical monster, dinosaur skeletons of oil refineries,
the cradle of relentless growth of cancerous tissue,
swamp of alcohol.
Once the barrier to the onslaught of advancing chords of Tamerlane,
gray encampments, fortresses, ravines
full of bones, and yet
crisp, orderly merchants’ town: straight prospects, gated storefronts,
onion heads of churches by the cliff
over the waters. Day and night the evil spirits still hover
over the floodwaters. Pagan idols entombed in scorched earth.
The shadows of perished still palpable in the twilight:
Marina, Marina, Osip, Marina.
Yelabuga, Kama, Volga,
Asian watershed. Eastern winds
break cemetery trees between cross-less
Long, desolate street,
blind windows, lone hound barks.
Street, where Marina’s sister Anastasia
walked alone up this street in the early sixties
to the graveyard to look
for Marina’s unmarked grave.
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