Alexander Ivanovich Vvedensky

The Gray Notebook (selections)

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Above the dark good sea
the boundless air rushed here and there,
it flew like a blue falcon,
silently swallowing night’s poison.
And the air thought: everything passes,
rotted fruit hangs by a string.
Like a dream, the star arises,
the bee immortal sings.
Why shouldn’t man, like death or stone,
watch the sand without a word.
The flower longs with its petals
and thought descends upon the flower.
(And the air swept up the sea
as if the sea of metal be).
This hour the flower understands
the forest, sky and diamond.
The flower is a jerk, a leafy grove,
we watch it on our right,
as long as we are still alive
we’ll snip it with a knife.
(And the air swept up the sea
as if the sea of metal be).
The flower’s wiser than the man,
it asks to be given a name.
We named the flower andrei
he is our peer in matters of the mind.
The bugs and birds around the flower
moaned aloud like forest cups,
a river ran around him
sticking out its stinger,
and the ants and the butterflies
ring like bells above the flower,
pleasantly the swallows cry,
tenderly flying over the fields.
And the air swept up the sea
as if the sea of metal be.

KOLOKOLOV:
I’d gladly drink another shot of water
to the health of this bird in the air,
who flies like a fanatic
circling over bushes of excitement like a lunatic,
her eyes’ magnetic shine
takes in rays of the highest level.
She hovers, this bird candle,
above a drop of water, over river, over mountain,
often adopting the look of a psalm,
possessing the image of a hollow thing,
she does not snag the hill’s wing,
an earthly man pines for her.
She is a goddess divine.
She is God’s paper, sweet and kind,
to her life’s crowded desert
is not all so pleasant.
You, little bird, are suicide,
or you are renunciation.

KUKHARSKY:
I would very much like to touch a heavenly body
that has perspired overnight like a maiden,
and I’d like so very much to see all
of night’s figure as it is inexplicable,
this night, a dying-out-er,
this croaking daughter,
like heavenly sand it is palpable,
now wilting away into Tuesday,
I’d lift a particle of this night like a petal,
but I feel just the same.

SVIDERSKY:
Kukharsky, have you been breathing ether?

KUKHARSKY:
I touch a stone. But the hardness of the stone
does not convince me anymore.
Let the sun shine in like a palm tree in the sky
but that light doesn’t do anything for me.
Every single thing has color,
every single thing has length,
every single thing has length,
has width, and comet’s depth,
every single thing now fades
and everything remains the same.

KOLOKOLOV:
Why are we sitting here like little children,
wouldn’t it be better to sit down and sing something,
a song, for instance.

KUKHARSKY:
Let’s sing the surface of a song.

The Song of the Notebook

Sea, oh sea, you’re the homeland of waves,
the waves are sea-children.
The sea is their mother
and their sister’s the notebook
it’s been that way now for many a century.
And they lived very well.
And prayed often.
The sea to God
and the children to God.
And after they resettled in the sky.
From where they sprayed rain,
and on that rainy spot a house grew.
The house lived well.
It taught the doors and windows to play
shore, immortality, dream and notebook.
Once upon a time.

SVIDERSKY:
Once upon a time I walked poisoned down a road,
and time walked in step by my side.
Baby birds sang variously in the bushes,
and the grass lay low in many places.
Like a battlefield in the distance rose the mighty sea.
It goes without saying that it was hard to breathe.
I thought about why only verbs are
subjugated to the hour, minute, and year,
while house, forest and sky, like Mongols of some kind,
have suddenly been released from time.
I thought about it and I understood. We all know it,
that action becomes an insomniac China,
that actions are dead, they stretch out like dead men,
and now we decorate them with garlands.
Their mobility is a lie, their density a swindle,
and a dead fog devours them.
Things are like children that sleep in their cradles.
Like stars that move in the sky just a little.
Like drowsy flowers that soundlessly grow.
Things are like music, they stand still.
I stopped. Here I thought,
my mind could not grasp the onslaught of new tribulations.
And I saw a house, like winter, diving.
And I saw a swallow signifying a garden
where the shadows of trees like branches make sound,
where the branches of trees are like shadows of the mind.
I heard music’s monotonous gait,
I tried to catch the boat of words.
I tested the word in cold and in fire,
but the hours drew in tighter and tighter.
And the poison reigning inside me
wielded power like an empty dream.
Once upon a time.


Before every word I put the question: what does it mean, and over every word I place the mark of its tense. Where is my dear soul Masha, and where are her banal hands, and her eyes and other parts? Where does she wander murdered or alive? I haven’t the strength. Who? I. What? haven’t the strength. I’m alone as a candle. I’m seven minutes past five alone 8 minutes past five, as nine minutes past five a candle 10 minutes past five. A moment as if never. And four o’clock also. The window, also. But everything is the same.


It gets dark, it gets light, not a dream to be had,
where’s the sea, where’s the word, where’s shadow, where’s the writing pad,
one hundred and fifty-five is nearly at hand.

SVIDERSKY:
Before you stands a road. And behind you lies the same path. You stood, you stopped for a quick flash, and you, and we all, saw the road before you. But just then we all went and turned onto our backs, I mean backward, and we saw you, road, and we surveyed you, path, and we all, all as one, declared it was right. This was a feeling—this was a blue organ of the senses. Now let’s take a minute ago, or estimate a minute ahead. Whether you spin around or look over your shoulder, we can’t see these minutes. One of them, the one that has passed, we remember. The other, a point in the future, we imagine. A tree lying flat, a tree hanging, a tree flying. I cannot pinpoint it. We cannot cross it out, nor can we touch it. I do not put my trust in memory, nor in imagination. Time is the only thing that does not exist without us. It devours everything that exists outside us. Here falls the night of the mind. Time ascends above us like a star. Let’s throw back our thought-made heads, that is, our minds. Look, it becomes visible. It ascends above us like a zero. It turns everything into null. (Our last hope is Christ has Risen.) Christ has Risen is our last hope.

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Alexander Ivanovich Vvedensky