A light was jammed in the door lock I noticed it and moved aside a river Of pages filled with writing. I wanted to free it with a key But it was faint, almost winter already And nothing and no one was near me And its tiny trace would soon disappear It was caught on a sharp corner It smelled of raspberry, meowed like a cat How could I help it—collect its dust? Perhaps pull it by its strings or fins Perhaps butterflies will scare it away With their feeble autumn movements Here it fell on my shoe It jumped as a zigzag beam To become a shoestring—should I tie it So that my shoes stay on my feet? I know: the life of light is short Too short, I say That’s why I wanted to pull it through the lock So that I could save seven rays For myself, as they predict winter and snow And I could capture warmth and drink alcohol From the heart of this light and its gifts I knew that nothing shone on it That it would touch me, simply illuminate me With amber Takaji wine and insects That it would become a golden ring A spiderweb, sticky with spit And dust on my shoes
By Vasyl Makhno
Translated by Olena Jennings
From Paper Bridge
Published by Plamen Press (2022)
Vasyl Makhno is a Ukrainian poet, prose writer, essayist, and translator. He is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, most recently, One Sail House (2021). He has also published a book of short stories, The House in Baiting Hollow (2015); a novel, The Eternal Calendar (2019); and four books of essays: The Gertrude Stein Memorial Cultural and Recreation Park (2006), Horn of Plenty (2011), Suburbs and Borderland (2019), and Biking along the Ocean (2020). Makhno’s works have been widely translated into many languages; his books have been published in Germany, Israel, Poland, Romania, Serbia and the US. Two other poetry collections, Thread and Other New York Poems (2009) and Winter Letters (2011), have been published in English translation. He is the recipient of the Kovaliv Fund Prize (2008); Serbia’s International Povele Morave Prize in Poetry (2013); the BBC Book of the Year Award (2015); and the Ukrainian-Jewish Literary “Encounter” Prize (2020). Makhno currently lives with his family in New York City.
Olena Jennings is the author of the poetry collection Songs from an Apartment (2017) and the chapbook, Memory Project (2018). Her novel, Temporary Shelter, was published in 2021 by Cervena Barva Press. Her latest poetry collection, The Age of Secrets, was published by Lost Horse Press (2022). Her translations of Vasyl Makhno’s poetry have been published in Consequence, Asymptote, and other journals. She is the founder and curator of the Poets of Queens reading series.
Photo by Lisa Kalloo
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