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from the April 2017 issue

Eddie’s Funeral

Businessman from Mongolia. Irkutsk

Like a raven on a stripped branch, sitting alone on the roof of
   a highrise.
Having lost everything, from the height of the thirteenth floor,
   dangles his feet.
The angels of death—the photographers, TV journalists—
   have already turned on their cameras,
The embassy, the other side of the sacred shore, has already been
   notified.

Enkh Etrech, dear one, what have you forgotten in Siberia’s
   region of hungry ghosts?
Oh, to ride on horseback at a gallop, on the steppes of
   Alpine meadows,
You even found the time to say—you love this city,
   this forested country,
You bestow as though a souvenir from Ulan Bator your corpse to
   the EST rescuer.

So what could the fool of a rescuer rescue if he’s not
   the savior Buddha,
Could he return to you the dough lost yesterday
    at the roulette table,
The flame of desire is eternal—so sayeth the Sitter in the Lotus,
Nothing left to extinguish the debt with, the Chinese dragon
   burning up the soul . . . .

Enkh Etretch, my dear man, why did you, as a child with a top,
   play the wheel of Samsara,
Bleating from the fold, mustangs thunder, trade in steppe songs
    for poker chips, and the stars?
Mute and unhearing, heir to the human clan’s sacred sayings,
   unbounded willfulness,
Heedless to gasps and groans, all gallop toward ancestral bones
    on horseback, all apple dappled . . .

 

Eddie's Funeral

Coffin, and what a coffin, your brother Eric, that great carpenter,
    crafted.
Tom-toms’ thunder, music of the spheres, the black-eyed widow
    wailing;
The two-meter-long fish obscures everything with its silver
    scales,
Filling the confines of the dead fisherman’s earthen hut.

Yes, your friends and relatives have made you a farewell gift
Of a magnificent and blinding hope, Eddie;
They cradle and lull you in it as though inside a crib,
Then send you off on your final path with dances and song.

Awake!—the widow sings.—Get up, you old lazybones!
Your hungry children are begging you for a bite of a fish!
What are you waiting for, go and catch us something to eat!
We need you, you big swarthy oaf!

But his dirty ears are resistant to their tender entreating,
And the thick lips will not stretch from these ears into a smile;
His drunk friends carry his fish-of-a-coffin while play-fighting,
For Eddie loved his drop to drink, and of course, to rumble.

Shoulder to it! and the fish barely lurching shifts forward;
Shouts from behind: “Turn around, Eddie’s forgot something—
             the spirits are speaking!”
The funeral procession shuffles thus, first forward then
    backward,
By turns chanting mournful praises, then merrily dancing
    onward . . . .

 

© Amarsana Ulzytuev. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2017 by Alex Cigale. All rights reserved.

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