Translated from the Russian by Boris Dralyuk
The name of this tree is tree; water’s water. If you want to leave, leave: go nowhere. Here, nowhere – that’s all. He made them. Choose: either no-one – or me, Adam. You are woman: that is your name. Raw material, like grass or clay. I am Adam: I give names to all. You’re my wife: you come when I call. Don’t want to? Don’t. Enough bellyaching. I’ll ask our Maker for Lilith – He’ll make her.
In fall the park is flecked with statues, puddles. The marble gods are ill at ease, while tattered boots and brooms and shovels do as they please. The rattling trucks bring planks to box up Ares. The wind grows colder. The day goes by, as lusterless and bare as Ares’s shoulder. The night hears rain lay itself down beneath the statues’ feet and, at the darkest hour, their quiet chorus: O gods, we once lived in hearts that trusted in our power…
Better to live backwards: it extends your time. That is why each sits here, hunched over a tome. Januses, their pupils glitter sneakily on their backs, their empty specs are turned to me. Stifling horror with a smile, I look for a free desk – I come, having decided that God gave me a task.
Julia Nemirovskaya is a Russian poet and prose writer who was born, raised, and educated in Moscow. She immigrated to the United States in 1991 and teaches Russian literature and culture at the University of Oregon. She has published three collections of poems – Moia knizhechka (My Little Book, 1998), Vtoraia knizhechka (Second Little Book, 2014), and Slyshnee (More audible, 2021) – as well as the novel Lis (2017). English translations of her poems have appeared in Washington Square Review, Exchanges, Asymptote, and other journals.
Boris Dralyuk is the editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books and translator of Isaac Babel, Andrey Kurkov, Maxim Osipov, Mikhail Zoshchenko, and other authors. His poems have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Hudson Review, The Hopkins Review, The New Criterion, and elsewhere. His collection My Hollywood and Other Poems was released by Paul Dry Books in 2022.