Poetry Travels with Anna Blasiak and Lisa Kalloo: LIGHT by Vasyl Makhno, translated by Olena Jennings

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

Check out the Poetry Travels book list on bookshop.org.

Read previous poems from Poetry Travels:

A MESSAGE FROM THE ISLE OF WIGHT by Wioletta Greg, translated by Maria Jastrzębska and Anna Blasiak

HOME by Nataša Sardžoska, translated by the Author

ONLY THE BEGINNING COUNTS (4) by Jan Baeke, translated by Antoinette Fawcett

*** (RABID WINDS) by Gerður Kristný, translated by Rory McTurk

ANSWER TO THE PRAYERS by Vainius Bakas, translated by Kerry Shawn Keys

AGGRESSOR’S MONOLOGUE by Artūras Valionis, translated by Jura Avizienis

THAT’S ALL by Jurgita Jasponytė, translated by Jura Avizienis

UNTITLED by Linas Umbrasas, translated by Audra Skukauskaitė

FIRST SPRING OF THE WAR by Vytautas Kaziela, translated by Jura Avizienis

A LETTER TO A CHILD by Lina Buidavičiutė, translated by Ada Valaitis

UNTITLED by Aneta Kamińska, translated by Anna Blasiak

TWO LYRICS OF LOVE AND MEMORY by Lina Kostenko, translated by Stephen Komarnyckyj

CROW STUDY by Yuri Andrukhovych, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

UNTITLED POEM by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

UNTITLED POEM by Ludmila Khersonsky, translated by Maya Chhabra

UNTITLED POEM by Iryna Vikyrchak

From THE ANDROMEDA NEBULA by Anna Gréki, translated by Souheila Haïmiche and Cristina Viti

TEAPOT by Nurduran Duman, translated by Andrew Wessels

IT’S COMING AGAIN by Michael Strunge, translated by Paul Russell Garrett

REPORT FROM ANOTHER CITY by Marcin Niewirowicz, translated by the Author

INTERIOR by Ana Blandiana, translated by Paul Scott Derrick and Viorica Patea

THIS IS LOVE by Joanna Fligiel, translated by Anna Blasiak

REVELATION IN H&M by Menno Wigman, translated by David Colmer

*** (I WANT TO FOLD THIS DAY) by Inga Pizāne, translated by Jayde Will

THE SIEGE by Marcin Świetlicki, translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese

FISH by Jana Putrle Srdić, translated by Barbara Jurša

THE WELL by Maarja Pärtna, translated by Jayde Will

THE SHADOW by Pentti Saarikoski, translated by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah

A FAREWELL TO MY DEAD CLASS by Irit Amiel, translated by Anna Blasiak and Marta Dziurosz

THE GIRLS IN BERGEN-BELSEN by Nora Gomringer, translated by Annie Rutherford

DECEMBER, by Jaume Subirana, translated by Christopher Whyte

ROSE RED, by Ulrike Almut Sandig, translated by Karen Leeder

*** (I D[R]IPPED MY PEN…) by Mario Martín Gijón, translated by Terence Dooley

WHAT COMES by Magda Cârneci, translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Mădălina Bănucu

TRANSLATION by Justyna Bargielska, translated by Maria Jastrzębska

*** (MY EYES, DENSE NIGHT…) by Gëzim Hajdari, translated by Ian Seed

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