Piper Wheeler

Sickness: A Translation from the Russian


An underrated nonconformist poet of the Leningrad Underground, Viktor Krivulin was prohibited from publishing in official channels until 1985. He circulated his work in samizdat journals, held secret seminars in the bedroom of his communal apartment, and developed an almost religious faith in poetry as “an endless conversation, a dialogue, a chorus, a communal sounding.”



Returns—that means it’ll leave.
Held for a bit
by light through a chink. Shifted
a door’s latch onward, into eternity.

In this house time is whitened
by stains. Furtive
lye soaks the world of things. A nurse’s
bleached face before a terminal patient.

The cot pulls shoulders in.
Freedom’s twofold, though—
yoked, both fly. Nature exalts, all aglow;
nights are bright in a dreary nickel sphere.

How’s that?—you ask—Аre the shakes
really cousin to light?
Only steel starts discussions with glass at night,
only fingers like ice-chips are laid on the face.

It returns. The door screeches.
A tin pot sings
syringes to a boil. It returns in faceless din,
a cyst, a fever. Loss of consciousness.

You left— I whisper—you left!
Vertically, doors widen
the chink. A cat comes in—eyesockets, skin
and bones, skeleton. Scrawny cat. And darkness.

No! the handkerchief’s whitened, and the cross,
the cross traced in blood,
and chlorine’s green cloud swims toward the headboard
shielding the speckles of stars.

October 1974

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