From “From A Winter Notebook,” new poems by Matvei Yankelevich




Poetry


 


 
* * *

It is winter and I wish I could write in the bathtub.
I wish I could write in the nude in the tub.
I wish I could write in the bathtub. But it’s all too
wet in the bathtub. It’s completely wet in the tub.
It’s much too wet in the water in the bathtub.
All my thoughts are wet in the bathtub.
All my thoughts are wet in the water in the bathtub.
They flow in the water in the tub. My thoughts flow
in the bathtub. My thoughts flow in the water
in the winter in the tub down the drain.

 

* * *

Halfway into the winter woods a hemisphere of red
bubbled on your nose’s bridge. I didn’t want to alarm you—
must have been a branch. I started in to saying something
but then caught myself; it was perhaps something you knew,
preferring not to draw attention to yourself. Later, much
later, I’ll write it down exactly, after I’ve read all these books.

 

* * *

Winter — a landscape in questions, old punctuation.
The floorboards creaking, I step out to bitter moons.
Don’t worry, the notebooks are all with the proper
authorities. Such little things make life, and buttonholes
let it seep out. It can happen in no time and now it’s over.
Time wounds the world as windows crack the landscape
in an allegory. The grove of spruce or pine, over there, it
stands apart. The planner is full, and it’s only February.

 

* * *

It is winter and Kathy Acker and Georg
Buchner are socializing while Leslie
Scalapino watches from behind the soda
fountain counter. (She won’t keep this job
for long). Danton has two fingers in Cathy
while Cathy is in Georg’s dreams as he
lies on his deathbed from which he probably
won’t get up. He’s delirious as Danton
makes Kathy come sexually and Kathy
makes noises, making herself come
because noises are sexier than fingers,
a farmer’s hands on an aristocrat who
wants to be a working class hero. Georg
screams as the noises close in and his
fingers grasp for a pen to finish Wojcek.
It’s Danton putting the pillow over
his face, because he’d rather be fucked
than fuck and it’s all appropriation,
only the imagination is this color of red
on a barber’s blade. The revolution, she
had it coming. On a snow-white apron:
the color of cancer.

 

* * *

It is still winter and this is to thread
it together better; to thread it together
better this winter than the last. I don’t
walk 21 miles to work at the factory
and back again; I have trouble
choosing between Perpetua and
Gill Sans. “Perhaps, with some more
leading the sans won’t read so heavy,
and the Perpetua would be far less
precious without the drop caps,”
as you eye the specimen sheet with
suspicion; or “Is this homophonic
translation a tad post-colonial, is it
colonizing its southern subject?” I’ve
had the misfortune of knowing what
to name shit; but I’ll cook for vegans.
You have underestimated the power
of this dark slider, earthling. Now
bring your leader to me.

 

* * *

Winter’s prison: fog, the books
I write down to read, each night
too short to write that letter you
would rather I not write. Sweet,
the moments prowling christmas
posts — a girl I had almost nerve
“to date” in high school, her kind
smile, kids and stockings. But it’s
a quarter-century since graduation
(something I never got over) so
I scheme that someone might
take pity on this exile once made
to see how far outside of life
my life has made me. A useless
struggle’s worth my while, my
persistent loafing, desperate
inertia. To sing without a tune,
figuratively abstract: the sound
product of tying my shoes.

 

Matvei Yankelevich is the author of Alpha Donut (United Artists), Boris by the Sea (Octopus), and Some Worlds for Dr. Vogt, recently released by Black Square Editions. He is the translator of Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms, and co-translator of the National Translation Award-winning An Invitation for Me to Think by Alexander Vvedensky. Matvei is a founding member of the Ugly Duckling Presse editorial collective, and teaches at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, Queens College, and the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.