Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Родила тебя в пустыне
я не зря.
Потому что нет в помине
в ней царя.
—Joseph Brodsky, “Lullaby”1

A warden of the stars releases a bit of light.
It arrives in the distant whining of an ambulance,
in the morning’s groceries spilled on the floor,
after you carried your body up the stairs all by yourself.

You are screaming among the oranges.
A child slow to learn, I still hardly understand
doorbells or calendars,
a disassembled mechanism where for a moment our breath

died completely, before flaring up again like a lovesick suitor
at the open window of the world.
That was me singing.
What did you make of us among the truant angels?

A new configuration of the eternal and the infinitely sad.
Like moving a table from one corner
of the room to another, except being both Muslims and Jews,
these transitions are more or less impossible to explain.

My soft bones and organs sustained by a few drops of milk
and kindness. Efficient nurses
laid me on a scale, smiled at my sex. For a handful
of shekels, they hired a band of Bacchantes

to beat their chests at the hospital gates
in praise to the generous void
to the woman who delivered the flower of its violence.
I’m just glad someone took down our names.

On a real piece of paper. Folding it into your pocket,
so that we’d know how to refer
to ourselves later, and the world, what happened.
Nothing was the same in the city of Vienna.

Shapeless, I laid on your chest,
and cried without thinking, inconsolably—
my first lesson on possessing
flesh and a soul simultaneously.  

1“I gave birth to you in a desert / not in vain / for within its expanse / no kings bother to reign.”
Translated from Russian by Elvira Basevich.

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