Two Poems by Matvei Yankelevich

BOMB 149 Fall 2019
bomb magazine fall 149

***

First off, I’m the worst there is on earth. Back there

the light shone on the vernacular as in the middle of

my life I came upon myself in a protracted evening

of rubbing some ideas together. Rushed back for

solitude with someone barely known to me who wears

my glasses, as if to clearly see what seems too hard,

and other times, too easy. Ease of positions:

Our shit ain’t their shit, etc. Whatever works

beyond suppositions, under the givens of things being

things, as if individuated. No time to write this, so

wake up and everyone’s speaking Ravickian, can’t

squiggle out. I got alerts a few days late. No one was

told about the curfew in Kafr Qassem. So this is

dispersal? Or is it spread ‘em, like ashes. I’d call poetry

tomorrow, but it’s out for the day of the dead. Offered help

leads straight to dropped the plastic salad spinner. Was what

you heard lip-service to the fugitives from some other

endowed chair? Cut to a turn too soon and you’re

rolling over. You can always be right, if you like

that sort of feeling pretty-mouthed. Missed Bernadette

show, now it’s someone else’s memory moved from paper

to product-oriented magma. I was accused

of sensing, but it was trans-sensual. Foreigners

speak what may only be hinted. What’s not to be

missed is life, but that too, as ’round midnight. After

I’m gone, count to three, and I’ll call you this winter.

***

Cold evenings, saline wine knots too much my new tongue’s

twenty-volume suicide note left in the rain

to forget the day I met you, everyone, meant

a thing to be a book made of paper. Take this

just one page of scalloped commas. Repeat myself

as in rehearsal (for what?), for must you watch

the whole unfold as spooling the spoiled film out

of the can: red is all there is in the end.

Little red squares, all. And that was us. Of course

it was, was all but the idea of us,

a type of “to the letter.” Typecast—in lead,

as it used to mean, and the slang of slag & slug…

my compeers. Projecting dreams onto a blank screen—

my moonblank face under you, finally alive

as thespians lend/lease life’s bedfellow on stage,

to say what wasn’t said to she I’ve slept with one

too many (o, dear ambiguity). Too much

I loved the literal. Banal utopia

of things around, tough friendships, village life,

newspapers sold at tobacconists, their headlines:

“Life Eternal Found in Bottled Water” somewhere

I know so little now, moving through contexts.

The spot on a body that the body can’t reach—

a universal, before the mother tongue

made sons and daughters. Peace is a foreign concept

nightly, and winter isn’t winter everywhere.

Matvei Yankelevich’s books include Some Worlds for Dr. Vogt, Alpha Donut, and Boris by the Sea. His translations of Russian writers into English include Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms and (with Eugene Ostashevsky) An Invitation for Me to Think by Alexander Vvedensky, which received a National Translation Award. He is a founding editor of Ugly Duckling Presse, and teaches at Bard College and Columbia University. These poems are part of a series-in-progress called “From a Winter Notebook.”

Some Worlds for Dr. Vogt by Matvei Yankelevich
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Originally published in

BOMB 149, Fall 2019

Featuring interviews with Korakrit Arunanondchai, Antoine Catala and Dan Graham, Atelier Bow-Wow, American Artist, Jeff Bliumis, James N. Kienitz Wilkins, Rion Amilcar Scott, and Carmen Giménez Smith.

Read the issue
bomb magazine fall 149