Speaking In Tongues
Guided by Voices

Daniil Kharms


Translated by Daniel Levchin

A parlor. The parlor burns.
A child bulges from the cradle.
Chomps at his bran. And up above,
a little bit below the ceiling,
the nurse is flipping in a dream.
A wall's aflame, the dishes rambling,
father dashes: "Ignis Fatuus!
Look, my baby -- baby Matty --
a balloon that flaps and flutters.
Where, oh where to find a monkey
'stead my son?" Instead of wall --
a cusped furnace unto heavens
pushes through the chimney smoke.
The nurse is chirring in a stupor.
NURSE: "What is happening to me?
Was I...? The world is growing shorter.
And Matty flies, as if a ghost."
She's a wolf inside the parlor --
puts a carrot through her jaws
and some coffee -- on the prowl.
Then tries to leave into the doors.
Now, careering through the garden --
sapid pecans in her tongs --
nanny swiftly, and her sweater's
all along the iron fence.
Later, looking out for Matty
and the hammock in alarm.
"Little Matty, were you hiding?
Now the soup is getting cold."
"Nanny, I am burning, Nanny!"
Nanny looks inside the crib --
nothing there. Into the keyhole --
nothing, but the parlor bare.
Smoke is piling out the window,
and the walls are light as down.
Fire winds around the cornice,
meanwhile, thunder, drizzle falling,
and the heart won't make a sound.