Four Poems

by Aleksey Porvin

Translated from the Russian by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler


The tree must see—under your feet
a dove drops its feathers—take them;
your plumage will be white
if you choose an easy flightpath.

Late cherries—round wounds
remember what arrowhead
made them in the wet summer wind.
They remember, but you must forget.

Pick the berries, know the tension
of the branch: it was a bowstring
in ancient times, and now it places
shafts and soulheads in your open palms.

The body marks its targets
and flies at distant gaps—it’s easier to hit
those doubts than use words to grasp
the castoffs of the bird’s darkness.


Birds are scattered by a shot.
Matter awakens with this cloud
and speaks solely by trembling–trembling
possessing the species that surpasses silence.

So if all the people’s specious specular exertions
add up to something other
than cumulative darkness, then happiness still
will not betray its native nest.

The bullet shatters the sole intact birch,
sealing up a crack in the forest’s chaos
and squashing itself flat
as the earth at the dawn of the mind.

Reconciliation—a piece of metal
is peopled with shining souls;
their sum is the sight
of all the substance that shakes off sleep.


Sight sprouted from the soil
but won’t disclose what’s most essential:
seeing more than others means being grass,
soft and barely alive.

Blade in the wind, you are
a way of looking at the world,
rocking in an elusive rhythm,
feeling your firm roots.

The heart is no looser than the soil,
but it selects and absorbs:
how fecklessly opacity is rooted
in our talk of better days.

Feelings tear like reins—
but being thrown by a cloudy
and alien horse means forever holding
this blossoming dust in your fingers.


The quiet was heaviest at sunset,
and the patina ingrained in bodies
awaited the proper instant to remember
that leaves cannot tell you the time.

The silhouettes on the rope swing moved
darkly over the river like weights in a pendulum clock,
too old and too lacking in human resolution
to scrub themselves to a shine.

Sudden splashes of penumbral sun
irradiated the landscape’s design.
The rope snapped, but will we
equate that with our native speech?

Days past were recounted to the end
by the bird fading on the branches:
"without human heaviness, we cannot
count out the time still left to us.”

Caitlyn Garcia