Speaking In Tongues
Guided by Voices


The Four Seasons of the Day


Impatiently the grass stirs underfoot.
Like one as yet unborn it gently pounds.
"Hold on, slow down," you'll say, "for heaven's sake!
I get your point."

But no, it won't back off, it knows its rights,
demanding -- childlike, painfully -- its way,
it wants to grow straight up and down
through me -- since I am in the way.

The sun above, invisible, and yet another sun
-- the earthly one -- the droning core inside…
What else but these two ovens I am blocking,
could be the everything the grass is yearning for?

My sole and roots, my stem and soul are yours.
Bind me, bindweed. Sharpen, sedge, your rapiers,
and do it! pierce me through, while I am pulp,
transfix me now before my time has ripened.

Translated by Margo Rosen and the author (2000)

* * *

The child who lingered behind the door
Will see when entering the room towards midnight,
How grown-ups have fun without children.
He'd thought, Just this, no more?…
He'd thought it must be a magic, mysterious World
like mom's perfume
or those boxes 'way back in the closet,
some endless holiday, impossible, ineffable… But this… --
They're just eating, drinking, talking so loudly
Red eyes on their red faces
And that's it

Translated by Margo Rosen and the author (2000)

* * *

Midnight approached.
Not that it attacked -- on the contrary,
I was attacking,
as if I were taking a height.
I took it. Time ended.
Freedom began.

And so it turned out
that the stars were like derricks
darkening against the dark
over the black glistening
oil-patterned sea,
but sparks in the speckled night
gleamed like light thread
in a tweed winter coat.

The wind,
(not like ours,
but smelling of mountain grass and water)
was like silk on the cheek --
a winding ribbon
whining through the flute-like street
named after a hero
of the long-forgotten revolution..

Later, towards night, we trudged along barefoot,
sinking into the invisible, still-hot sand,
one foot in the city, the other in the sea,
The youth's name was Ramiz --
handsome he was, and no fool,
telling his story at length.
His fiancee took her own life. He explained why,
but I've forgotten.
Some passions.
The wind blew, and the rusty unknown shore
seemed uninhabited.
The restaurant's lights irritated the pupil..
The smell of shashlik (1) wafted in from the sea.

Now I was to become fiancee number two,
me -- his weird, impossible bride.
his father would forgive us, he swore
(the father was Minister of something),
and he kept repeating, persuading,
"Otary, otary. Otary..." (2)
Quite an offer!
I couldn't pass it up:
sheep, are sheep, after all,
Since that time I am counting sheep,
ambling toward me
down from the family slope
in a neat little chain,

And you? Like me, you studied something useless and beautiful: nature.
What 's become of you,

Translated by Margo Rosen and the author (2000)

* * *

He returned from the backyard
and went back to bed,
his feet still cold from the nocturnal grass.
lighter than the room,
than the grey bitter pillow cases,
were only seams
of the street outside
between the running curtains

and pity
which one shouldn't feel
was reaching for the dark head
that still smelled of tobacco
in the pit in the pillow

Translated from Russian by the author (1999)

* * *

Some day, no, not now, later,
after He has returned
all beach balls that had rolled away
all missing dogs, turtles, all kittens, and hedgehogs,
when His rustling Things to do list
calms down in His lap,
subsides, smoothes out --

I wish I'd be allowed to stand for a while
next to His shaky chaise longue
to the left, to the right
-- doesn't matter
for I'll would be looking away from Him,
never at.

The chair will squeak quietly, slipping on damp sand.
I'll be squinting at the sunset,
and the sea will be shining with queer gentle light
my hand will slightly touch the cool metal arm
his hem
lashing my bare feet,
his wide sleeve sliding over my wrist.

I won't dare to look
at Him. If I did
I would only see an empty beach chair
with faded striped fabric,
balancing on the narrow sandy ridge,
on that strip, on that crest with dead seaweed
that separates real sand from the pebbles.

How it would dazzle and shine -- metal frame,
tiny sea ripples, and pebbles -- will glow oh so gently so weakly
and the sun will reshape itself endlessly,
toying with forms,
never setting.

Translated by the author, 2002

1. Shashlik - pieces of mutton roasted on a spit. Translator's Note.
2. Otary -- herds of sheep (the youth's dowry). Translator's Note.