“[translate me render me into the martian tongue …]” by Dmitry Blizniuk

Dmitry Blizniuk

* * *

translate me render me into the martian tongue
across the black night
where the gun stock reaches the star.
beheaded houses hum in the gloom.
the neck vertebra of the torn staircases are exposed.
moonlight is bitter like the sap of killwort.
Lord translate my words.
we have not been born yet, but died already.
the evil sorcerer in his bunker gave the order
to annihilate all Ukrainians.
to burn all forms of memory. of life.
he poured a bucketful of flash drives into a bonfire.
our days are melting in the flames.
masses of memories of the universe.
I was young and once in a village I went diving
into the river after a running start.
rebar rods stood hidden underwater.
sharp rusted spikes.
the wooden fishing dock rotted away long ago.
for hours I chucked myself into the black river.
in the morning girl look here—you are covered with scratches.
on the legs, stomach, arms.
I was insanely lucky back then.
will I be lucky this day?
we pick the books off the shelves and knock
at every book’s cover. the classics.
let us into your paper worlds.
ray bradbury, sholokhov, leo tolstoy.
but no matter where I poke, it’s all For Thee the Bell Tolls.
I end up in War and insane Peace.
in Slaughterhouse-Number.
now the reality of our life is
Valley of the Red Data Book.
now every city is served
the cocktail Bloody Vlad.
crimson yolks float in dense murk
over the booze of events.
bombs gnaw at houses, schools, kindergartens, hospitals,
we are being freed of freedom and of lives.
the howling of sirens glides foreboding
air raid alarm—here comes flying
a purple swan with his head ripped away.
the dawn—a gray-blue
bigheaded infant resembling a shrimp.
labored breathing. pneumonia.
because of nights in a basement
a baby bird of mucus made its nest in the lungs.
yet another artillery barrage.
a rocket blasted an apartment in a skyscraper. a conflagration.
devil’s retrospective.
mom and the elder sister in the kitchen
are killed instantly by the explosion.
black thick smoke pours out of the corridor. billows.
burns a child’s eyes.
it’s not smoke-like, but black cotton candy.
the cat named Buttercup
is the first to tumble down to the asphalt
from the seventh-story window ledge.
thirteen-year old Misha follows him, leaps like a kitten
onto the enormous spire poplar—
planted three meters away from the balcony.
dry, slender branches break beneath the small body.
it’s as if he is falling into an empty well,
inside it
sprouts a stinging biting tree.
the boy Misha finds a way
to snag his elbow on a thick branch
at the third-story level.
his ribs and left wrist are broken, but he’s alive.
he faints. translated, rendered safe.
people in the apartments.
butterflies under broken glass panes—
apollo, sailor. swallowtail, morpho menelaus—
with shrapnel-pins in their velvety backs
slowly, slowly
they lift off from the earth.
they rise together with the cement boxes.
but that’s impossible.
the butterfly collector is surprised.
how many more people will perish,
how many more worlds will vanish unexplored,
unnoticed. just like that.
by the sorcerous wish of the kremlin maniac.
Kharkiv 451.
two fire engines are already on the way.
carving corners an ambulance arrives at the entrance.
imperturbable medical angels.
dark-red scrubs. kevlars.
next to the car the cat
drags his back paws. crawls
towards the poplar. lifts his snout. screams horribly.
and the ambulance driver notices stuck in the crown
a child.
no stranger will save the people
the close ones and the distant ones
except us ourselves.
that’s why the boy Misha absolutely must survive.
that’s why we will win.
Translated from Russian by Yana Kane, edited by Bruce Esrig

from Poets Respond
April 28, 2024


Note from the translator Yana Kane: “Week after week, month after month, year after year I hear about Russia’s relentless attacks on Ukraine. Kharkiv is the city that has been subjected to especially vicious bombings. Yet each time the citizens of Ukraine, the citizens of Kharkiv respond with resilience and courage; each time they push back the darkness with their love of life. One of the ways I express my solidarity with them is by translating contemporary poetry written by Ukrainian authors. Dmitry Blizniuk is a Kharkiv poet who chronicles his city’s suffering and the indomitable spirit. Note that ‘we are being freed of freedom and our lives’ is a reference to Putin’s claim that he started the war in order to defend the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine against the discrimination by the Ukrainian government.”

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