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translation from Russian by Yana Kane, edited by Bruce Esrig

Plural pronoun

since the start of the war
the world has kept silent

occasionally there’s indignation
we went to the wrong place we defend ourselves incorrectly
we haven’t disappeared from the map haven’t looked for a different globe
how much better it would be if we did
as the saying goes it’s good where we aren’t

that’s right it’s good where you aren’t
and posts on Facebook
that idiot Austrian painter was a loser
he didn’t finish the job

and posts on Instagram
yes horrifying pictures but it’s worse on the other side
it’s true they fired at their own
but that’s how it goes

and posts on Telegram
no one’s right no one’s guilty
it no longer matters who started it
and take these photos away from me already
what about SarajevoKharkivJohannesburg
and moreover not every place over there is under fire
not everywhere are there break-ins abductions rapes
so why not move and live in a safe spot
maybe even in Hanover or Ottawa

perhaps our persistence looks funny
as my use of plural pronouns looks funny
I of all people
but that’s how it is
perhaps if only we retreated shrunk into ourselves
became our own black hole

perhaps our disappearance would not be without consequence
for the beautiful peace-loving highly politically correct
they would feel sorry then
they would curate exhibits and museums with aesthetic expertise
just like in that German town where there is not a single Jew
but there is a lovely fifteenth century mikvah
(look up mikvah on the web before it’s been taken down)

I fear there’ll be no more reason for feeling sorry no one and nothing to feel it
DNA will fall apart
amino acids will disappear
cells will no longer divide and multiply
there will be no cells tissues nuclei and membranes

because the world continues to keep
silent

Dedicated to all, who — 2

So… Once again, I talk with people
in the war zone.
Based on the same principles,
based on the same reasons,
only now it’s you, my country,
burning with black fire.
The South’s aflame. The Center’s in the shelters.
The North’s silently waiting for the we-all-know-what.
It’s hoping. Keeping the faith. Saving up its reserves.
It’s pretending that everything’s not that bad.
Even the cafes are open.
Some of them.
They are mostly occupied by old people:
better there, than at home, alone.
They’ve gone through it all before. More than once.
And I sit in a park, on a bench,
and not another soul is in the park;

the jays squawk.
My mobile phone is aflame in my hands,
and I turn up the speakerphone:
I’m here, speak, I’m here!
And what do my fellow citizens say,
in Russian and in Hebrew?
‘My boy is in the army, I’m alone,
the phone’s been silent for a half-hour already.’
‘For the fourth night in a row, no sleep.’
‘My best friend’s husband was killed yesterday.’
‘My granddaughter’s at the base, burying the soldiers.‘
‘I’m in Eilat, the kids are with me,
it’s safe, but still, I’m shaking.’
‘I’m drinking valerian tincture like it’s water.’
‘I can’t find my medicine.’
‘The doctor’s in the reserves; there’s no substitute.’
‘I live on the sixth floor,
I can’t make it all the way to the shelter.’
‘I close my eyes—there’s fire and smoke.’
‘I can’t eat anything at all.’
‘Tell me, who can pick up the parcel?’
‘I’ll search for her myself,
she’s not among the killed and not among the living.’
‘My kid’s playing, and he screams: “to the basement!”
Should I stop him,
or perhaps, it’s a relief for him?’
‘Mom doesn’t want to talk to anyone;
it’s like he’s the only one she’s got,
yet here I am, also unsettled…’
There’s no air to breathe, no air to breathe.
And what can I do? I hold the phone,
the boiling, flame-wreathed phone,
and I say: let’s breathe;
now we’ll breathe out and breathe in,
and one more time, breathe out and breathe in,
allow ourselves to sink into the fear,
and the pain, and the senselessness, and the void;
we’ll find a small island inside us;
we’ll land on it; we’ll stay there.
I also say: it will not be like this forever;
I also say: we will prevail!
We’re alive, right now, at this very moment.
Exhalation, inhalation, again and again!
in fact, that’s all there is:
breathing out, breathing in.

Marxism and problems of linguistics

this is my mother tongue
not granny’s yiddish
not my kids’ hebrew
that’s how things turned out
no one to blame
no need for excuses
the russian tongue doesn’t belong to anyone
not stalin not putin
not turgenev not the russian nation
the german tongue doesn’t belong to anyone
not hitler not paul celan
the english tongue doesn’t belong to anyone
not ezra pound not nelson mandela

a tongue belongs to whoever’s speaking

leave the russian tongue in peace
at least if you aren’t among those who are under bombardment
who bury their loved ones in playground sandboxes
those have the right of pain
and also the right to write speak think
in the russian tongue
or in any other.

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