Five Poems

by Slavick Ciganec
Translated from the Ukrainian by Olena Jennings


in her eyes a sign should read “swimming prohibited”
no one knows how many of those who ignored it drowned
one day you’ll want to try it
but there is one tiny problem
you must dive to the very bottom
and come face to face with the heavenly
or martyrs
no one knows of
in your eyes a sign should read “swimming prohibited”
or at least “don’t swim past the buoys”
but there is one tiny problem
you will be the first one who will tear it down


even superheroes get old
you’ll always be like you were then
when I met you for the first time
as a small girl
for whom daydreaming was as important as breathing
you eat my jokes for breakfast
you eat my sadness for dinner
and at night
when nothing is left of me
you give me the most valuable thing you have
your dreams
your dreams are the most delicious thing that I’ve tasted in my life
they smell of sun happiness cinnamon
and also of something mysterious but familiar
my little girl
you guessed at all the secrets of the universe
you understand how simple happiness is
and you can give it to to anyone
whose heart is not completely hardened
I know all your dreams by heart
last night you were a princess of pink elephants
the night before you spoke with dolphins
I watch how soundly you sleep
and again I am speechless
when I first saw you
you reminded me of everyone I ever loved
and everyone I wanted to be with
now in everyone I see you
and in you I see a part of everyone
this is some kind of madness
it’s impossible to believe in it
who are you and what are you in the end?
tell me your name
“I’m Every Woman” Whitney Houston sings on the radio
it’s bettter if I go turn it off
or I’ll go crazy
I know all your dreams
I’m only one of them


grandfather said:
“once you’ve experienced winter summer spring fall,
then you won’t find anything new.
you will always be looking for something,
and you’ll call it a search for truth or love,
but the truth is in the fact that
you shouldn’t look for love but create it”

grandfather liked to lecture:
”If you fear losing something,
then you haven’t found yourself,
and when you do you’ll be at peace,
because life is like that,
nothing belongs to us that is possible to lose.
you don’t have any obligations to life,
and it doesn’t have any obligations to  you,
and it isn’t indebted to you,
even though our hands aren’t empty –
they are filled with love
and that is the only thing you can give away without loss 

grandfather said:
“don’t ask for anything:
either they’ll come and give you everything.
or they won’t.  so screw them.
it means that you don’t really need it”
and it’s true –
grandmother brought him everything
and he sat all day on the porch
smoking his pipe.
she loved him


I like to write letters, even though in my life I’ve written only a few
my handwriting will tell you more than any photo of me
the Christmas holidays have passed and I already miss them
it’s not just that I’m sad or that I miss them
but these long cold evenings seem to be made for this
for missing that which is gone and which you don’t need anymore
I make ginger tea, reread what I wrote, cross some out
and then crumble up the entire letter and sit down to write a new one:
“everything is ok with me, same old stuff,
I want to change the world for the better, or change myself
even though these are probably the same thing
in the morning I saw a flock of geese
they were flying somewhere south east
to meet the rising sun”
“in the afternoon I received a strange letter from Miss Greygoose”
“you want to hold light in your hands
but while they are pressed together you can’t hold anything
the large is given only to the one who can value the small
don’t be afraid of giving a hand even to someone who is drowning
this is your chance to spread your wings
keep your hands open”
I thought a lot about this listening to an old Morcheeba album
I finished the tea and went to sleep
I dream that I see light through the shades
I find a door I open it and move forward
to meet the light


you are my map
I’m going to study you forever
and every time I’m going to find undiscovered territories
you are a deck of playing cards
seventy eight tarot cards
or maybe just from six to ace like in a game of fool
I like to shuffle, do magic tricks, fortune tell,
just deal one card at a time
and observe how they are dealt
sometimes I imagine myself the joker in a deck of long untouched atlas-like cards
between the queen of clubs and the eight of diamonds
and then I become especially happy
and, in the end, you are my checkered shirt
I have checkered shirts for all occasions
a shirt in which to feed the ducks
a shirt for tea ceremonies
a shirt in which to make ginger ale and fly kites
there is one so milky-black specifically for eating Belgian puddings
and there are some that just hang in my closet and with their disturbing presence remind me of the unstoppable flow of existence
and all this is you


Caitlyn Garcia