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from the September 2018 issue

A Run in My Stocking

Georgian poet Lela Samniashvili on the "fatal defect" of time, and the past in the present

Listen to poet Lela Samniashvili read "A Run in My Stocking" in the original Georgian

If I leave, you will always be tortured with the feeling
of guilt that you could not leave me.
But from where I look at it,
“always” seems so short, just like the past,
or the future. The future—
What do we know about it? There are precisely as many types of futures 
as we want and even more that we may still wish to be.
It is heartfelt, this marvelous silliness 
which smokes like the candle on this low table
in the manner of an alien idea of heaven.
What is in store for us if everything continues anyway?
Imagine the time lapse footage accelerating
a bud newly opening, the fading of its petals,
a chick fledging, opening its wings, falling to the ground,
losing feathers, its demise secluded  
without a sound

its skeletal breastbone, barely visible beneath the grass
generations of ants crawling all over it
but now see the other shots too, this time in slow motion:
a child crying, the celebration of its birth,
how the hand of a doctor cuts the cord
then it is my aunt—on a business trip to Europe
with all her cheerful superstitions—
who leaves part of that cord in the Sorbonne. 
A child—in an apron. A porridge stain.
A child—with a pacifier in its mouth.
A child—with a book, a child revising its verses,
and the mother whose lips silently follow the words of these verses,
words that move with her. Her face
beaming with happiness. Then the child grows.
She moves from one year to another. She swallows facts and events
like pills as the years go by.
Then she stands at a crossroad.
The distance to the horizon lengthens. Her breasts form.
Soon a baby will grow inside her
the fruit of love or passion.
Then you can speed everything up:
Now there are two old people, arm in arm, walking in a garden.
It is a short scene as they say good-bye. The flowers are fading.
Time actually resembles a run in your stocking. 

Try, imagine the first creation of God—
the beginning of the universe—a singularity. Unfractured. 
Containing within itself numerous shapes
of fragmentation without cross-section. And then a big explosion. 
Atoms splitting. Countless eruptions,
the fragments floating endlessly, going everywhere and nowhere at once,
departing with endless inertia,
the impossibility of free fall,
attraction, repulsion, dissembling,
the fragments forming into new shapes,
stars, creatures, ideas, directions.  
Entity—completely ripped to pieces.
Time is a fateful defect.
Like finding a run in your stocking.
Nothing can help it.
So now, plant two feet firmly on the ground
and look at how kindly this trash heap of a universe smiles at you
with all its rich resources
its secondary surpluses and its fast food
—brought to you by its charitable arm—floating down into the
guts of mankind.
Rich people throw scraps and the poor pick them up trembling
alternatively, clever people will pick up scraps thrown by fools
or would rather retrieve their own pieces and let them rot.
How can I say that I love you in this garbage pile?
This place allocated to us? If we succumb to 
our parents’ will, and promise to try to elbow 
our way through less, we will find this place—
the cleanest, purest place possible.
We will fill our studies, our work, our house 
with the tattered rags of all the minutes and years
and we will marry, and we will have a child, and we will feed it,
and the stink of garbage will bother us less,
if we can just find the cleanest, purest place possible.
I understand parents. They want only the best for us.
And their care, their prayers are grasping at this nonexistent eternity
through us.
We will find thousands of talents and curses
granted to us by them, within us, the invisible line which
goes through the skin of generations and doesn't grow old,
because parents don’t know any other kindness—
they only know how to worry about their own flesh and blood,
they can’t spare any garbage for the bonfire
and with patience they bring us up, they wait.
Imagine a lion in the circus, still a new one,
before it has learned all the tricks,
but it can’t stop the growling in its throat.
And sometimes the lion tamer uses his whip and sometimes fresh meat— 
sometimes a threat, sometimes an offering,
because in the end, he must put his head into the lion’s mouth.
Life tries to make us get used to being tamed,
it teaches us to breathe deeply amid the garbage.
How can I explain to you this love?
The love that eternally fights the wish to escape,
That love that wants to shout “No!”
To all the skills and disabilities
this bag of genes has inherited, that I didn't even have the right to choose.
I could not refine them anymore than I could if I was given the right to.
They strap our flesh and blood to this existence
it has nothing to do with our will,
it reins us in with pain antennas, with the alarm of suffering,
it won’t let us go anywhere, it doesn’t leave us any real choice—
leaving is so difficult and prohibited because 
staying alive is tangled around it 

I know there is the curse of god and the curse of being human:
of the god who turned into god
precisely by making this choice—
daring to be crucified, and being ready for it.
In the name of love at least.
He is god and is free of this fear.
As for me, who wishes to dare,
though I am laden with thousands of doubts, like a tree of fear,
maybe with more fear, with more feeling I could 
hold onto this miracle.
But to be saved I found a child,
Our child, who comes
and looks into my eyes
and repeats these questions
with more persistence and curiosity.
She says that this is normal.
I tell her this is love.

© Lela Samniashvili. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2018 by Natalia Bukia-Peters and Mac Dunlop. All rights reserved.

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