Translated from the Ukrainian by Michael M. Naydan
A hundred years of youth, and after that a desert . . .
Can’t you feel the neighborhoods
Of your old home town with your eyes shut?
The dogs of our youth bolt
Through the dead smoke of burning leaves,
And blood simmers…A hundred years
Of youth, and after that a desert.
Here nightingales are hammered like nails
Into the breast of bushes waiting to bloom.
In August sudden downpours
Splatter in the sun like a clothesline wash
Hung between windows. And the snows!
Huge, the color of violet…But you
Are always driven nearer
To arms, shoulders, skin, to his shirt
Blistering from the heat. Driven all the way to the wall
Chilled by dread and the moss.
Shutting your eye, can’t you feel
The innocence that once sourrounded you?
Don’t you want to hide inside a stone
From those first kisses?
There—into the stone and moss,
Into the weatherbeaten brick, ragged balls
Into the nightingales! The sweet dogs
Of our youth lope after us
Though the dead smoke of burning leaves.
Blood oozes through their backsides.
Into the moss! Into the dread!
. . . and after that—a desert.
Natalka Bilotserkivets is a leading Ukrainian writer living in Kiev. (1994)