Issue XI, Volume V : July 2014
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Andrey Gritsman is a poet and essayist, originally from Moscow, Russia. He writes in English and in his native Russian and is the author of five volumes of poetry and essays in Russian. His works have appeared in many magazines including Richmond Review (UK), Notre Dame Review, Manhattan Review, New Orleans Review, Denver Quarterly, Hawaii Review, Hunger Mountain, Poet Lore and were anthologized in Modern Poetry in Translation (UK), in Crossing Centuries (New Generation in Russian Poetry) and in The Breath of Parted Lips: Voices from the Robert Frost Place. Andrey’s book of poetry and essays in English Long Fall was published by the Spuyten Duyvil Press in 2005, Pisces in 2008 by Numina Press, Live Landscape by Cervena Barva Press and Greatest Hits by invitation from Pudding House Press. Several times his work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and received an Honorable Mention and was also short-listed for the American PEN Center Osterweil Prize for Poetry in 2005. Andrey runs Intercultural Poetry Series at Cornelia Street Café in New York City and edits international poetry magazine INTERPOEZIA (www.interpoezia.net). He lives in New York City and works as a physician.
I am calm now.
This is the beginning of the road.
This is the end of the road.
Once you are born, you invite your soul
to be comfortable, to have a glass of water,
sit by the fire.
In the morning you go shopping
with your soul,
your close ones
left behind and you still
love them all, as if
you just went to the store
to pick up Tropicana and Starbucks,
maybe matzo and blintzes.
You ask your soul to be quiet:
you just have to learn to wait!
At last: the candles, the book, and strange letters
breathe cold ancient air
like from the twilight crevices
on the side streets of Yerushalayim.
We get warmer as we taste the wine,
herbs, and hummus. The soul puts a shawl on,
as dark wind sweeps over the water
and enters the room.
we always leave the door ajar,
in case Elijah comes by for a drink,
in case we have to leave home again
in the middle of the night
to go back home.
You are a catcher of the lights
from your childhood in the apple orchard,
a lone patrol with smokes,
In the afternoon, after the pill wears off,
your eyes are alert and out there
they are all waiting
to be taken into custody,
into account, to pay their dues of warmth,
to attach themselves to the pulsating surface,
when the announcement of despair is on the air,
unanswered calls, a fugue of fear.
You are a restless creature, lost between
destination points on the East Coast:
in fact, not having any destination, leaving traces
on highways, between streaming trees,
and in cities where weathered statues
are left behind, abandoned spirits,
which outlived the parting,
not seeing you, still seeing you.
They are inside the niches on the sidewalk,
hunchbacked, lit weakly by the light
spilled from the kitchen window:
egg salad for the son or late-night coffee, before
Valium kicks in, or glow from the living room
where a book is left open on the low table
by an ashtray filled with Marlboro stubs,
like fingers fallen off,
those desiccated specimens of breath,
nature morte—still life of death
in the Medical School museum
closed for the summer.
We’ll build a new room,
upstairs with a skylight
so the tree branches can reach the transparent cube
of sealed air where we live.
After we die, the room
will keep the draft of our light
movements until the late
fall when snowflakes
touch their reflections on the panes.
Or else let’s build the room on the main floor,
extend the porch or dining room, the kitchen,
so all of them can come and stay with us
and make suggestions, scrutinize every move we make:
changing plates around the table,
pouring more wine and apologizing,
apologizing, until we die and the new room
is obsolete. Because what’s the point
of their coming if we are dead.
They’d go somewhere else and future generations
will carry proudly the simmering bowl
of warm hospitality and unconditional acceptance.
Until they die too.
Or maybe it’s better
to finish the basement, fix the plumbing,
and build this room there, without windows,
so nobody could look inside.
After we are done we’ll open a bottle
of champagne and laugh and put
the half-empty glasses on the laundry machine
that handles rhythmically all the things
from everybody way back,
who’d lived or stayed here until
only the machine would be working
as long as there is electricity until the first
December snow blizzard hits, when the thruway
is closed, the lines are down,
even the emergency broadcast is over and
the only way I can hear you is
when I am alone in the room
talking to myself.