Skip to content
Congratulations to 2021 Ottaway Award winner Naveen Kishore! Learn more.
from the April 2017 issue

Three Poems

On the Death of Jean Vigo 

The day was silent to distraction, 
only the dog’s growl traveled beyond the window 
undulating slightly, barely eschewing 
the bellows of the echo. A person— 
that’s something interior (therefore,
incapable of habituating itself to Being). 
To rise, get out of bed, handle a book,
open a responsive door— 
no more than trifles, 
but these ministrations are mystical rites when 
they are inspired by a presentiment of death 
or, possibly, something entirely different. 
The air billowed under the morning casing, 
in the all-too-usual yolk-stain of a dispassionate city, 
in the room, 
where the haggard blanket coddled his austere body. 
On the other hand, this is wholly irrelevant . . .

​Translated by Dana Golin


Midday. 1975

The midday—spring-wound—with its lilac skin
cracked along a fold, reveals a path to blooming,
the nest feels heavier, and death
doesn’t submerge in a jar of iridescent honey.
Earth is moist with perspiration, which dries up as it slithers
    into the wood-pulp,
the way a sequence of hours ripens,
precluding that awkward tension,
which holds the stalk trembling against the wind.
The surface of the water’s still—as it absorbs
into its very depths the glow of poppies.
Love’s premature, and lips
are fraught with salt and silence.

Translated by Dana Golin.



The song of a mockingbird seeps into the taste of black cherry
especially here in father’s and mother’s
yard where for the first time the question
and answer are heard in unison—
the freshness of the vanishing provinces at
    the end of a century when
the final stage of any microcosm resembles a prolonged dawning.
The terse terminus of the south
which will now frame the impending tide . . . .
a Greek-Bactrian dress, a pergola, and a hill,
a swarthy stranger with the profile of a Saxon sable.
Dust in the former rays settles steamlike between the
    quinine-gray shoulder blades
of this guest who had fallen asleep in one of the rooms of my
    parents’ house
as though it were only coolness warming up to the unfamiliar
A commonplace time in the begetting provinces,
a dim departure on your film strip,
but the sunny circumstances impinge upon the crashing
in the clay lamp crusting up in the shade—
an other tranquility of other grownups.
In the roots’ fibers fidget yellow beetles
like gobs of spit of mischief-makers come to life—he
is immobile growing no smaller,
the familiar impersonality of average dimensions still alive in him.

Translated by Alex Cigale.


© Shamshad Abdullaev. By arrangement with the author. Translations © 2017 by Dana Golin and Alex Cigale. All rights reserved.

Read more from the April 2017 issue
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.