The dark-winged prostitutes at the bus station in Boston
Look like pleasure boats or better sharp-breasted bathing beauties
At full sail on the waters of Saint-Malo
But this analogy like cheap shorts is too tight
And chafes your thighs
I wander among these vessels of belligerent desire
Knock-off chalices of spleen
Ruins heaped gravel of vacant lots
Black galleys of quick relief
Absolutely exposed closed transparent grim
I wander like a monkey in the garden of paradise
Like a cheerful bright scratch across rotting flesh
Like a dollar spit out on the ground by an ATM
Slot for various wondrous transactions.
I’m back from a gathering of damp enormous acacias
And souls like them—black autumnal and naked
I walk smiling smoking sorting through verbs
My verb for you is “leave”
The more sweetly urgently
The more steeply tenderly space spreads out between us
My verb is “remove” “reject” and with just a trace of sound
“Affirm” how black how damp how immense our parting is
How forgetting is twisted bent like a marvelous spine
I walk smiling and you’re invisibly with me
Namely in the dog position of Orpheus-Eurydice meaning
I can’t turn around
Or else: one second—
An explosion then blindness and a gap where the loved body was.
The punishment doesn’t fit the misstep.
I only wanted
To watch to hear your voice lying between us like a gorgeous whore
Against the sunset’s brew framed by the window
Smiling gleaming like a baudelairean ebony back
Your voice standing in front of me like an explosion or the sun.
You understand—but too late.
Again you understand—too soon.
Overpowering the glowing shithole
Where clots of memory swarm. Nothing about this is clear.
You understand and smoke and think: well, it’s amusing.
A bus station prostitute tips her lighter to my face
This night this scene with its simplistic pathetic
Stage set belongs to me like nothing else
Except perhaps your wind-up steel heart
Translated by Catherine Ciepiela
Polina Barskova comes from Saint Petersburg and is the author of eight books of poems that have garnered national awards in Russia. Two collections of her poetry, in English translations, appeared recently: This Lamentable City and The Zoo in Winter. She teaches Russian literature at Hampshire College and lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.