CAPTAIN, I SPY LAND. LET ME DISEMBARK! | LІUDMYLA DIADCHENKO


what will be left of you? withered leaves and a couple of skins
you shed in a serpent-like manner? dead wormwood stalks?
ambrosia buds? greek gods had a taste for that weed
but gods’ meat is woman’s poison gods are not us
the ragweed breeds allergy (a surgical mask as a chador)
and the dead leaves get noisy amidst the nights of delirium
what will be left of me? You took everything quite away
and all knaves of hearts’ mischief compared to that is a boyish parody
though what’s being left of us all: symbols, memories or just lies?
of jesus – the cross, of van gogh – sunflowers, of hugo – quasimodo
and of the world — the bones of all those who were driven by God
onto this earth under these skies into this adventure

 

 

translation into English by Viacheslav Stelmakh


 

To Asmaa Azaizeh

 

a couple of sand grains strewn to the desert’s grounds

a couple of sun rays to what is already clear

how fares your palestine? when will it let you go?

how fares your heart amidst the strange and the alien?

i’m muddling up words. languages. in the evenings

i read that Lord’s love’s parceled out by abraham’s children

out rolls the spring on a camel laden with gifts

green turns the cover and contents of your koran –

sort of a book devised by an ancient poet:

a peculiar one. books resemble the poets’ regrets

a few questions and dreams and a bit of humour

but as it often happens it’s been misread

 

translation into English by Viacheslav Stelmakh

 


 

through ukrainian weeds and right to the very sanskrit

walking and gathering alien alphabets with your ears

the day before yesterday takes to the road to converse

the day after tomorrow calls you from round the evening

here the sun sinks earlier on the horns of the cows

and the winds of no names flock to the watering places

this sarcasm of fate that has led me here by the hand

just won’t disappear and so there are two of us now

dressing a weary day in a bright-colored sari

bidding a hasty farewell just in time for a new one

your language won’t tell neither where nor how long you go

perhaps you’ll be lucky to settle this matter with sanskrit

 

translation into English by Viacheslav Stelmakh


July has left behind a few magnetic storms,

And you have left me with a few new neuroses.

I knead August to make it rise whole, just as

I knead space on trails by hiking strange trajectories;

I follow recipes and find my joy in baking—

This, then, is my being, my clear sooth.

Whatever barkhan is shaped by a lonely wind,

Sand and desert are ever-menacing, ever the same.

So gather your scarabs and jackals, pick up any girl

And break off some of your improper compassion.

May you be completely lucky, may your August succeed

In making your fingers sticky like persimmons once did.

 


 

A book by Kafka supports the absurdity of recent fortnights.

Unfinished glasses of wine support last night’s celebration.

It’s a bit hard to look into the eyes of truth, the fictions of writers,

When our own story lies like a wrinkled blanket at first sunlight.

 

“To the future!” you say, raising your glass and nodding to the window,

Which frames, with its squares, ellipses of muteness and space;

And x-rays can’t show, for whatever long, irritating reason,

Why a soul stands on end. If you’re smart, you will guess this.

 

And what does it need? Why can it not stay still in windows or blankets?

And why does it hide a boatman’s oars at rest, in fog?

The prospects fly off the eyes like a hungry bird from opening hands,

And tomorrow will hold neither silence, nor Kafka, nor bird, any longer.


 

Calligraphy is off the agenda. Psalms have fallen

Out of fashion in the pop charts. We live hand-to-mouth.

But writing the word, “We,” had once looked elegant,

As though eternal—our world, our script, locked in amber.

But the unholy scripture was left for only us to read

As I fell into dream when the real world lay elsewhere.

Since “We” are no longer, the word aches like an old wound…

I tried to write it down. I loved so much and it looked well-

Wrought. A swollen sky poured out its intentions for each of us.

Make a fist, set the teeth—our single-minded goal, samsara.

You insisted my words were improper, wrong, unsuitable.

But how was I to know? I merely wrote down what you were saying.

 


 

Here, in latitudes lying north of you,

The golden fall packs the horizon

Like a tin stowing sprats; we stay up late

(And judging the stretch of our legs, we ourselves have longitude).

I read the newspaper for every Zodiac sign,

Finding mostly no difference on weekdays.

Easier to ask the stars themselves; instantly, their laughter

Fills this room and those of my nearby neighbors.

And how is my desert? Has the sand dried out at last? —

Clawing into the ground should not be rocket-science.

Here, having jammed my satellite link-ups to you,

Pigeons wing into the sky like prayers offered to God.


 

Hanging ikebana over your table—cranes emigrating to foreign

Lands and distant seashores—will win over the heart of me.

How will you benefit? Ducks wave, as they have been taught,

And outside, an obedient street kisses the heels of someone.

This late fall, my darling, brings a virus, a cough and a bitter sky

Snidely rubbing my nose in the bouquet of everyday mistakes.

A duck will clutch a star only to share its prey with some guy;

It will fly to the East, its chador barely covering its face.

I’ve surrendered to my path and am devoted, like all wanderers:

Two suitcases, red-eye transfers, a cup of cheap tea with no sugar.

Just imagine this. There is a crane in the sky. Can you see it?

Be mature. Wave to the crane. Wish it well:

Bon voyage… Bon voyage … Bon voyage!”

 


The Math has no hope. The logic is mourning breakfast

cereal cooling down for one person.

The space is so free that even deceiving

Nobody will lead and will scare with prison.

Even though shreds of sky are fixed well with a window,

Flies and fairies will pass without troubles through frames,

And the echo, affirming good acoustic of bedroom

Without any resistance, is still wandering there.

It’s twenty past eight. A lavish infinity of sands and waves

Doesn’t let focus on eternal life drama.

Your mother tongue compromises you: a scared “cuckoo” escapes,

This was the first word uttered by Adam.

 


 

Captain, I spy land. Let me disembark!

I see a walled city that has no keep,

Peacocks marching past at high noon;

Archangels—meditating from skyscrapers—

Blissful faces drowning in a carbon monoxide haze,

Compare human deeds to their tablets’ commandments.

Captain, this capital stings me to the quick!

Did my hat blow off? Am I losing my mind?

The jaded scene unfolds in my spyglass.

Dejection strangles me, claws at my throat.

Captain, give the command! I would disembark.

Captain,

I would leave this ship; it’s the land I’ve sought.


 

Side by side with my djinns. There

They are—just rub the electric kettle!

Here is my number. Ring me, if you wish,

Or spend the night—it doesn’t matter.

My hostess has stockpots and saucepans

And I have herring and water, but the djinn

Packing my dowry into a suitcase runs

Out of time. Could he really manage alone

Without littering my socks all about?

But then, all will happen as Fate wills it.

“Open, Sesame!” you will say, leaving me,

And my djinn will see you off.

 


Walking through Venice — where it’s not so deep — along

the canals and across

gathering dreams

gondolas bumping

a land with no sign

of where the clouds gather to drip

and most importantly: how long this rain will last

it is now winter in your land

burrows dug into the sand

where the changes in weather, as in women — are notable.

it is time to light fires

with what flotsam

I can see

bobbing peacefully to shore.

Can a southern man know winter? frostbite in his fingers and toes?

there are masks here

and carnivals …

but I am not even a gram

closer to you. I walk on submerged nets

and wave to gondoliers.

You call them — “boatmen.”

 


 

A booming wind won’t allow for much fishing

so sing about the blackthorns still in bloom!

Your online friends — scarecrows in a garden — smirk

and not because your haul was bountiful. Winds gust from every direction,

and here’s the thing: I sit down, I stand up, I lie down and I sit again,

but wherever I look, the sea is dead-empty.

Nobody visits, though a soul from a hungry land

dials numbers, begging for someone to rescue him,

but you will not go. And I resist. After all, twisted

with age, it is hard to accept a life pointless and replete

with the excesses of silence and loneliness

cancelling out everything I’ve spoken, recollected or faced.

 


 

I dream of the sea, and I am a fish — I think

Twice, though, before probing the depths.

The current is warm; I wish you felt this,

Streams that flow and rush at our backs.

You would drop me in an aquarium, buy fish food,

Rebuff those dubious people who come to stare.

And I would observe you, knowing your talents:

Detailed, adult fairytales for the nights we’ve secretly spent,

Fragments of touch, whole phrases of the fire

We kindled, the sky collapsing on our waking habits.

Peer into the ocean — I am your fish,

I flap my fins at you;

Do you really think

I swim away?


 

It defies logic, but miracles really happen:

Sunlight scorches even the saltiest tidal deposits,

The sweet cherries of Eden remain hidden,

The clicks of leisurely footsteps grow silent.

Something I cannot hold

Sinks to the bottom,

Settles into my psyche

As my soul’s own thief.

I study in a mirror a landscape

That doesn’t appear to care

That you, in your deeds and words,

Stared wide-eyed,

Building memories of seagulls’

Heads and a chunk of sea

Stuck with pine needles.

You stopped there,

Even stayed awhile,

Though no one will ever

Recall this, but you.

 


 

Carousel and caramel

Held in windy hands !

Climb gently up,

Climb gently down;

You can’t always guess, so

Either reassure yourself

With prayer or spit on fate:

What is needed and what comes

Will, at once, save everyone,

Taking one and taking all,

Even this carousel’s

Plastic grasshoppers.

Go on — collect

Memories like clustering

Fleas on a stray dog —

It just gets harder,

If relieved, time to time,

By a seagull’s squawk,

A squeaking yawp or a meow.

To be honest, this is neither

Very little, nor very much.

This entire life is a place

You’ve observed and traded

For other places, because

You were not welcomed.


 

This island with wild goats and two donkeys

Reveals its deity, a flowering olive grove.

But we need not only treasures: we want them buried,

And we want old, weathered maps to guide our search!

When Autumn arrives to recline upon her altar, there will be

Offerings of lamb and grapes — accept but do not taste them.

This is my command to you — regard it as a Gibraltar

Blocking Africa from joining Europe.

As water scrubs away at the hull of your boat,

Set sail with your cache — it is your freedom.

you did not meet whom you had sought,

But whom you met, you will never find again.

 


We have nothing in common — so we do not talk,

But neither do we oppose the truth in our silence.

As the duck’s wings lumber heavily over the sea,

Is there absolutely nothing left for us to shoot?

Guilty or innocent, rain falls, like milk into coffee;

We will drink this, and we will shatter our cups!

My airplanes will have all been taken away by the sky,

And my motherland’s voices will have all grown silent.

Whether I fly or not, mistaken words amuse me;

Wherever you stay, you’ll let it go to the dogs.

You cannot hoist pain, like luggage, up with your hands.

Carry it inside yourself, yoke yourself to it, bear-up.

 


original translation into English by Dmitrou Teplouhov

rendered into American English by Padma J. Thornlyre


Lіudmyla Diadchenko (2.08.1988, Kyiv, Ukraine)

Poet, a Vice President of Ukrainian Writers Association, Ukrainian literary rating “The Book of the Year” expert, member of World Nations writers’ Union (Kazakhstan). Doctor of philosophy (Theory of literature), works at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Scientific interests: mythopoetic, hermeneutics, spatial studios. The author of poetry collections: Fee For Access (2011), The Hen for Turkish Man (2017), which is one of the ten best Ukrainian books of the year, Kedem (2020).  

Sources of published poems;

Literature magazines and journals – “Porter Gulch Review 2020” (USA), Atunis Galaxy Poetry (2020), Dendro Editorial (Peru, 2020), “Shahitto” (India, 2019), “Armagan” (Bosnia, 2020), Knjizevno pero (Crotia, 2019), “Artkaspi” (Azerbaijan, 2018), «Publishers Weekly» (United Arab Emirates, 2018); “Modernity”, “SHO”, “Courier Krivbas”, “Dyvoslovo”, “Ukrainian literary newspaper”.

Anthology – “NEP: Night of erotic poetry” (2011), almanac of International Istanbul Poetry and Literature Festival (2017), of 18th International Sapanca Poetry Evenings (2018), Terra Poetica (Minsk, 2016), The Language of the Sky (Tbilisi, 2016), other almanacs and online publications.

A participant and winner of literary festivals;

2012 – Marked by Oles Gonchar International Ukrainian-German Prize.

2018 – Literary competition “Poetry of pomegranate tints” winner (Azerbaijan Diaspora Association).  

Took place in The 10th International Istanbul Poetry and Literature Festival (Turkey, 2017), The18th International Sapanca Poetry Evenings (Turkey, 2018), The 11th International Istanbul Poetry and Literature Festival (Turkey, 2019), The 6th International poetry festival in Sidi bou Said (Tunisia, 2019), International Fikret Demirağ Poetry Festival (Nicosia-Cyprus, 2019), The 30th Medellin International poetry festival (Colombia, 2020), Chair Poetry Evenings (India, 2020).

Some poems translated into English, Spanish, Arabic, Georgian, Croatian, Bosnian, Russian, Azerbaijani and Turkish languages.

Living and working in Kyiv.


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