Three Poems by Arkadii Dragomoshchenko

BOMB 17 Fall 1986
017 Fall 1986
​Timur Novikov

Timur Novikov, Fontanka River, oil on canvas, 28 × 40 inches.

But not an Elegy

Parallel snow,
The animal smoke huddles in the neolithic burrows of the night.
Comprehension is confined between the brackets of the eyes, nibbling
the white,
and the brain is like a mouse in a labyrinth.
You see what you see.

The world lies low. And you are only a hunted beast,
                                                           creeping cautiously
                                                           across the crackling nap of sound

You will be trapped.
The trash pits have lost the secret power to stop entropy,
as a poultice of chewed nettles stops the flow of blood,
or singing stops the raving of the mad.
                                                                          Two or three degrees ago
on the centigrade scale, the pieces were already parting (severing ties)
                                                                             longing for wholeness,
For disintegration as if it were a meeting …
Where does the column of heat come from?
The sun falls directly on the slope of the roof.
It is resurrection and resurrection again.
Now even a corpse must be as hard as a star
And as invulnerable, too, in subterranean lakes—not dreadful,
As a gun is not dreadful nor the glowing column
                                                                                 of tranquil fire,
Were charred vessels of of crows
Diminish behind the thumbnail of the visible,
Living half as the eye of the Arctic and half as myself,
                                stamping a red clump of wormwood into the snow.
So we discover the structure of the sky—measuring ourselves
against the moon;
Inheriting the kingdom by right of primogeniture
You shake the dead mouse out of the labyrinth,
Out of the parallels,
The animal smoke, out of what you see
and what is seen.

17 Leningrad 1 Body

Unattributed painting from the Leningrad portfolio.

March Elegy

                                                                                … rose
                                                                                … snows
                                                                                (from the poetic)

The idiotic shed of frost is slush, faded,
The solar cowl of the rose is white as damp plaster.

Brother wolf with his ravenous belly is foraging through thickets,
Along the ravines and in the sparse brush,

Relentlessly baring his teeth at himself in the fog,
Ears laid back against his scalp, rushing about in his mangy skin,
He grieves,

He forages,
Squinting an eye at the moon in the black gullies,
Staring straight at a plaster doll in the gold …

In only a stinking Tatar!
Oh, how thin and mournful the whining of the stubble on the hillside—
If only a venerable old man would cross his path,
He wouldn’t insult him with help, he would just rip open his throat.

He sheds clumps of fur, chokes on crusts of foam,
Wretched with his yellow fang in the tints of marvelous smoke—
It’s not the moon that splashes icy water into his jaws,
It’s not a pestilent star that scratches his heart like a sister—

Ripping his paws to the bone on the crust of diamondlike snow,
Night and day,
                        day and night bending into one bow,
The younger brother, recalling little Prince Ivan, gallops
Straight into the white sun—

Look, what he got into his head, the cur!


Elegy to a Dream on the 5th of February

A dream -that’s “four.”
Voices uttering: “Four features henceforth will grow black
                                                                       on the worm-riddled page
without unrolling
the scroll of numbers.”

The full moon is fitted into the “four,”
Translucence like a cellophane shell bulging around a locked
                                                                                     room. The globe.
By itself the dream isn’t significant. A thief.
Voices uttering: “the reading lessons won’t last long …
hearing muffled—moat, melting the endings off vowels,
doesn’t prevent our unrolling the alphabet scroll.” The mouth.
Only for an instant the corners relax—narrow

in the fascinating obscurity of hearing,
in the two lines, repeated in two windows, stark white.

The corners are thin like a closing wound.
The corners are sharp—the dog-star Sirius drawn from a well,
Moisture is simple at points if intersection, in the live cavities of rhyme
But voices uttering in unison—that’s “four,”
This is the refraction of a fissure, behind it the mouth
                                                               of the intersection’s dark spurt,
But in order to lose oneself there, to assume the form of a docile dream,
One must broach the thought that its shores can’t be reached.
The moon
        The labor of the hand’s sensation, mute. Then a second hand
Again the one that was before this in the austerity of intersections
Where—for me and the voices uttering.
Cinnabar familiar with the sky.
                                                    From here the winds form a close ring.
The sky abandons speech.
Seated around the table’s husk were all whom the brain was absorbing,
Was allowing
to draw themselves up in different configurations. There
was not a single thing that couldn’t be named: “light”
Or “four,” it doesn’t matter,
When you bend around the dream, a body of glass, or a track.
For them it was
a second, third, fourth, not forming


Translated from the Russian by Lyn Hejinian and Elena Balashova.

Elena Bashalova was born in Moscow and has lived in the United States since 1963. She works as a translator and librarian in Berkeley.

Arkadii Dragomoshchenko was born in 1946 in Vinnitsa in the Ukraine, but he has lived most of his adult life in Leningrad. He had been one of the most significant members of the “unofficial” Club-81. His poetry and poetics have been very influential, although his work remains largely unpublished in the Soviet Union. A number of his poems have appeared in Sulfur.

Leningrad by Jacki Ochs Lyn Hejinian
Boris Smelov
The Chinese Sun by Arkadii Dragomoshchenko

This First Proof contains an excerpt from “The Chinese Sun.” Translated by Evgeny Pavlov.

Three Poems by Viktor Krivulin
Sergei Bugayev (Afrika), Untitled, circa 1984.

from Poems on Maps

cash wrangles round a kiosk

Two Poems by Elena Shvarts
Sergei Bugayev (Afrika), Untitled, circa 1984.


Presentiment of life abides till death.

Originally published in

BOMB 17, Fall 1986

Spalding Gray, Angela Carter, Rodion Zaveriyayev, and Joan Mitchell.

Read the issue
017 Fall 1986