Vice President, General Secretary of the Russian PEN Centre
Alexander Tkachenko  
Selected Verses

   The Field of Babylon 
     Three Lakes  
     The Inertia of the Past  
     A Bad Memory

    The Poet, founding member and General Director of the Russian PEN Club Alexander Tkachenko was born in Crimea in 1945. 
    1963-1970 - professional soccer player in famous teams Lokomotive (Moscow), Zenit (St. Peterbourg), Tavria (Simpheropol). 

    1972 - first book of poetry; 
    By 1977 published 7 poerty books and joined Union of Writers; 
    1988-1991 - Head of the Literature and Art Section of Rabotnitsa magazine; 
    1991-1992 - Head of poetry section in youth magazine Yunost; 
    1992-1994 - Editor-in-chief of Novaya Yunost; 

    General Secretary of the Russian PEN Club since 1994; 

    Member of the Executive Council of the International Parliament in Strassburg

The Field of Babylon
International Writing Program
University of Iowa
Fall, 1986
    The Field of Babylon cities cities  
    Pompeiis the ashes of past emotions burg them 
    a volcanic eruption 
    dreams crumble 
    transients wander 
    over the abyss of the Seine 
    birds with ravenous beaks 
    flock together 
    passion suffocates men and women 
    they fall asleep embracing 
    covered with the ashes 
    of past emotions 
    gypsum and clay 
    .............. marble and diorite 
    absorb everything inessential 
    to a future Rodin 
    Pompeii's fiery mane 
    buries millions of thoughts 
    beneath the banality of 
    St. John's revelation 
    ............... all with the hairstyle of a hippie 
    Every day a new Christ is crucified 
    with the thumbtacks of a bureaucrat 
    butterflies pinned in laboratories  
    dry up before the eyes 
    of cold scientists 
    fish swim up to aquariums at universities  
    asking to have the water of the oceans changed 
    Homer looks with horror at his hexameters 
    in the Procrustean beds of printers and tries to carry them 
    back to Ionia in order to curl them up in the long waves 
    of Time and History 
    the "Challenger" and the "Nakhimov" sink into oceanic rifts 
    into ruptured magnetic fields 
    into chasms of tension 
    the human organism begins to falter 
    people sink into the depths of the earth 
    without recognizing the essence of the tragedy 
    does human skin stretch and ooze drops of blood 
    instead of sweat 
    computers take bribes 
    for they are created in man's own image 
    but soon they will call a summit 
    to wrestle with the question of these bribes 
    and to bring up the problem of creating man 
    or rather of recreating him 
    . . . . . . . . . 
    and when all the hungry of the world 
    trace the paths of satellites with their eyes 
    the stars stand still 
    lighting up the great plowed field of the Earth 
    sowing it with grains of spirit 
    the stars stand still 
    Kepler's grains of sand 
    in the clockwork of the Universe 
    the stars stand still because everything moves 
    the hungry of the world have plowed the great field 
    for the satiated 
    because the satiated always stand still 
    and everything revolves around them 
    they have no need to lift their eyes to the sky 
    no need to sow doubts 
    or to worry about their nerves 
    on the tips of which there could arise 
    maybe even just the dimmest realization of inequality 
    and then they'd have to rip kindness out of their hearts 
    and be divided
    but single cell organisms divide 
    solely to multiply 
    they have seeped into all the world's pores and flourished 
    digging up the field 
    with a type of charity 
    specially tailored to fit multiplying mankind 
    but the black soil stands tilled 
    by plows wet with cut worms, 
    and the rotted roots of once green 
    the black soil stands opened to the core 
    steaming with the breath of new life 
    which struggles up from the depths 
    in spite of all 
    the black rupturings of the female womb 
    giving birth 
    to little men 
    who come bounding out onto endless paths 
    in spite of the tension of space and time 
    running past the red glyphs of ancient urns to reach the finish line 
    on asphalt roads 
    negotiating their wag among heavy trucks 
    children of Pompeii children of ashes 
    children of isthmian currents 
    children of the still unshattered core 
    children of a sky 
    that still hasn't come to resemble a Rubik's cube 
    they grow up in a flash 
    and they butt their heads 


          TO MEET THE SUN
Translated from the Russian by Bryce Conrad

    In the forest like a limp windless weathervane 
    (just follow the woodland path away from the field) 
    there lay three lakes... 
    A woman gazed into them and sighed, 
    and like three panels 
    folded into herself were reflected the shorelines and lake bottoms 
    Like a three-leaved mirror, she was split 
    into three lives. And men 
    in the apartment four floors up 
    divided her wrinkled face three ways. 
    0 indivisible self - 
    but each man took what was his. 
    One took mostly her clothes, 
    another mostly her body, 
    and the third extracted her soul, 
    something she had never dared reveal. 
    She had lost control of everything now 
    and each man took what was his. 
    (Roots underground grew toward one another 
    and rivers strained toward the same sea, 
    and if disasters ranged about in a circle 
    they ended up in a single sorrow.) 
    Three destinies now floated over a forest, 
    three women trudged along toward the town 
    and each like the wind tried to grab 
    a leaf that flew above her head.
      (Translated by William Jay Smith and Vera Dunham)

The Inertia of the Past
    Bullets continue their flying 
    Coming out from wartime 
    They join somehow with the motion of water 
    The motion of the earth as it evolves 
    And no one gets killed by them. 

    Because they go just about as fast 
    As the clouds go, as love goes. 
    The bullet takes up the mood 
    Of the still lakes as they move. 
    But if something around the bullet slows down, then 
    the bullets begin rising out of the earth like 
    angle worms 
    During a rainstorm. 

    And it starts: 
    Green apples fall from the boughs 
    Trains arrive out of schedule 
    The ocean tosses up unburied bodies of men. 

    It happens that way 
    And we don't have the right to move more slowly 
    Than we moved yesterday 
    Or even this morning. 

    If we slow down 
    The past will catch up. 
    And kill us  
    And lay our bodies out.

      Translated by Robert Bly

A Bad Memory
    A woman you are. 1 can't recall of what summer - 
    what events then occurred, what insults, and such... 
    Just a flat with no key, a flight with no ticket, 
    and a parting embrace with arms that don't touch. 

    A victim you are, but one of what age, 
    of what complications that have faded by now? 
    The branches move freely there with their foliage, 
    but have they no trunk? Did the trunk die somehow? 

    Golden you are. . . but of what buried forest, 
    autumnal in spring or spring-like in fall? 
    The summer's remains took revenge there with color 
    when you thought that that summer was the last one of all. 

    I cannot remember what it was that you wore, 
    can't remember the corn that so clearly I earned. 
    Just a flat with no key, a flight with no ticket 
    and the empty place to which I returned. 

          translated by William Jay Smith and Vera Dunham

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