Untitled (2013) | Irina Shostakovskaya | The Hypocrite Reader


Irina Shostakovskaya

Untitled (2013)


ISSUE 87 | OLD AGE | JUN 2018

In the morning she opens her eyes.
Rubs her plastic lids with fingers.
A village house. Ravine out the window. On the other
Side — airplanes, rockets, tanks.
They left them there and left. She cautiously goes out.
Their toys were all shared: the sand is scattered with
Tanks, airplanes, rockets. Rust on the fuselages,
Their guns are turned to the side. They won’t fire.

In the blue-grey grass a stray is gnawing on a para-
Trooper. He is not alive. He’s the only one left.
Away with reinforcements the night dew down,
Abandoned bottles, used condoms,
She goes out. She closes
The door. Slush beyond the threshold. Gasoline reek.
The ravine behind, the gate ahead and the exit
To the city. Not a sound. She cautiously desc-
Ends, down to the creek. Foot stuck in the trench,

She goes up to the dog.
Airplanes, rockets,
Wet cigarettes, plastic bags.
Rust on the fuselages, in the ditch shards from
Landmines. Not a soul. Unhurriedly she takes off
Her plastic slipper and starts beating the dog
On its head. The dog whines. The paratrooper
Falls: boots, face, shoulder-belt,
His middle bit through, hole in the back of his jumpsuit.
He is not alive. He’s the only one left in this world.

Their toys were all shared: airplanes,
Tanks, rockets, guns, demolition mines, anti-aircraft guns.
They left them there and left. Cautiously
Her plastic lids blink back
Rain. Slush beyond the threshold. Quiet behind the door.
The ravine’s behind her, ahead lies the gate and the exit
To the city. Not a sound. The birds have fallen silent. Out on the highway
It’s empty.

               In the morning she opens her eyes,
Rubs her plastic lids with fingers.
Window on the ravine. She looks. Cautiously
She goes out. She goes out until the city trains start squalling.
The gate opens to the highway. She looks. She looks. Airplanes,
Tanks, rockets, shards, mines, missiles,
Dahlias, peonies. They left them there and left.
…Don’t eat flowers off the ground, don’t eat flowers off the ground, don’t eat flowers off the ground!

*
September. Not a soul. Ravine out the window. On the other
Side — fortifications, fortifications, fortifications.
They left them there and left. In the blue-grey grass a stray
Is gnawing a paratrooper. He’s the only one left.
He is not alive: boots, face, shoulder-belt,
Right from the back, his middle bit through — and down.
She cautiously goes out. Used condoms,
Abandoned bottles, wet cigarettes,
Night dew, airplanes, tanks, rockets,

Their toys were all shared. Unhurriedly she
Takes off her plastic slipper, skirts the dog,
Foot stuck in the trench, the paratrooper falls
Forever. He’s left there. The dog whines
And kicks. She cautiously desc-
Ends, down to the creek. The paratrooper is alone in this world.
Hole in his jumpsuit. Like always, she cautiously
Blinks her plastic eyes.

Mudslide. Quiet behind the door. Slush outside
And trash. Their toys were all shared, but she
Goes out. September. The birds are silent. The city trains
Haven’t run in two days. The highway’s empty,
And no footsteps can be heard. They left them there and left.

*
The window behind, ahead lies the ravine and the gate
To the city. Quiet behind the door. She closes
The window. They won’t fire. In the morning she opens
Her eyes, rubs plastic lids with
fingers, winks at the dog and carefully—
The rain. Unhurriedly she takes off
Her plastic slipper and embraces
The paratrooper. He is not alive. Hole in the head,
Boots in the teeth, while he’s in a jumpsuit to the back.
The dog runs to the city train. Descends, down
To the creek. We collect the wet cigarettes
And smoke, I guess.
                          Away from the reinforcements
Across the sand — airplanes, tanks, rockets,
Orchids, daisies. Rust on the fuselages,
Guns turned to the side, in the ditch shards
From landmines. It’s fine.
                     Unhurriedly she walks up,
Beats the paratrooper, embraces the dog,
Blinks something out, her eyes rubbing
Plastic shoes (and not a soul!).
…Foot into the trench, but what can you do, shards all around,
Trash and gasoline in the air. Wafting. She heads
Straight for the gate, where the city is silent as a bird.
The creek behind, ahead a closed door,
Quiet.
           She’s still opening her eyes,
Rubbing and opening, empty on the highway, their toys
Were all shared: the plastic paratrooper
With a hole on the right side (shards all around!),
Wet sticky mud, and a live dog
Gnawing a boot in the grass (the creek is soundless!).

*
You open your eyes, like always, with your hands.
There’s a ravine somewhere, and out the window opposite a bomb
Went off. No big deal. Just be more careful,
I guess, where you walk. A mermaid lives behind the door,
She’s fine. She’ll wake up today.
The city stands, and birds walk along the highway
Toward the horizon, where there’s neither rain nor wind,
No blackout either. A waft, she looks, of gasoline.
Soon I’ll snow you. She doesn’t go out
And doesn’t get up, alive and not alive.

Soon he’ll be alone in this world. You can stay,
Don’t say a word. Use condoms,
Drink from the creek. Foot in the septic tank,
Caught real bad. She blinked. Blinked again.
The gate behind her. Wait! Slush beyond the threshold,
Away from the fortifications night dew skyward,
Sand, wet cigarettes, I’m not asking you where you are;
In the blue-grey grass the paratrooper is grilling shawerma.

…In the morning, while she’s prying open her lids,
Up there, ahead, — airplanes, rockets, tanks,
Their toys were all shared. September. Not a soul. Not a sound.
Anti-aircraft guns. Rocket-launchers. Demolition mines. (Makarov. Sawed-off. Switchblade.)
Abandoned posts, used casings,
The stray. Somebody’s jumpsuit. Use condoms.
She blinked. Alas, it doesn’t work. They left them there and left.
…Don’t eat flowers off the ground, don’t eat flowers off the ground, don’t eat flowers off the ground!

Trans. Ainsley Morse from the Russian.