SONNETS TO EUROPA by Vlanes (Vladislav Nekliaev)
Frost apple on a knotted whirling bough
of dark becoming where it cannot be.
So much both for the soil and for the tree,
so much for things that are becoming now.
You’re melting, slowly dripping from the prow
of a proud sphere pointing right at me,
so leaves caught in the cobweb, endlessly
rotate and shift, remaining still somehow.
As a faint sketch upon the open door
keeps this door shut, you keep the space behind
brought to the forefront of the searching mind.
As notches on the door-post wait for more
when children grow up, you send a kind
of fruitful anguish where you never go.
Imaginary landscapes, reddish leaves,
the scent of autumn lakes, the tumbleweeds
that bounce off the pimpled skin of June,
the hill devoid of height that shrinks and heaves,
blue hailstones blooming on the convex eaves
of icy homes with thick distorted frames
whose inner sphere neither lures, nor blames
and shows things one secretly believes.
As does the rain that marches through the fields
unmeasured by its ever changing span,
my body grows aimlessly and shields
itself from its illusions which began
to glimmer like the sun that now gilds
the tops of firs with its gold-soaked fan.
Your name, I cannot speak of it too much,
for I don’t want you to be locked in it,
your landscapes stretch beyond its rare frame,
but who can blame the things for being such?
Upon the slit of space you are a patch
of frozen cloth and thin transforming threads,
too small to mend it and too short of sense,
which makes you but impossible to match.
First words pronounced by the stiffened jaws,
first birds conceived under the lizard’s skin,
first shoots of anguish ripening within
the joyful blindness, forcing it to close
over its empty core that starts to spin
and splash existence like a broken hose.
My heart inside my body floats like
a piece of wood, all covered with the lips
of shells and marks left by the tiny crabs
scratching the names of the disaster with
their random claws. The calmness of the sea,
its sinister serenity is too
colossal to be noticed. In the depth
the tips of sunken masts still point at me.
My memory is a backyard overgrown
with long and leaning stems of dying grass
that rustle in the wind and make their own
the shadows of the clouds which amass
above the greenish gown gently blown
aside by any gust that comes to pass.
But something makes me similar to you,
I’m clothed too with icy crust that changes
and breaks apart, the crust of murdered days,
not taken chances which remain in me
and die again when I remember them.
My heart is not of iron as is yours,
but it’s as good as iron, too remote,
too heavy to be carried on and on.
The ocean of my blood is very hot
but doesn’t melt the ice. I go round
the giant world where creatures don’t abound,
and I appear as a tiny dot
to the reflector standing on the ground
of a stray planet which I know not.
You have been left to melt inside a room
with images engraved upon the walls,
as Rilke said: sunset, sunset... But you
were caught between sunset and slow rays
of unfulfilment. He who knows the sequence,
he wouldn’t notice your absence, since the row
would seem complete. But death without you
seems perfect, for you are the only string
that can be tuned, whereas others fail.
The instrument that was designed to play
some deadly songs under the fingers pale
and breaking all apart, is now taught
to resonate to your unspoken tale
and push its finger-board through the ice.
I still remember when I was a child,
I was sitting once in a huge room
and eating something greedily. My shirt
was covered with some soup or chocolate,
I can’t recall exactly. My mother’s hands
were there, so warm and so inevitable,
as if it was my duty to grow up
a happy person loved by everybody.
I was looking through the window, to the Volga,
I saw the endless luxury of space,
the small and round sun, the bushes on the shore,
the white horse that was fumbling in the sand
as if she found grass or hay, or something
she could eat. How long ago it was,
so long ago that I begin to doubt
if that in fact was me and not some kind
of a self-started memory, the fruit
of hopes unhoped which left this only trace
behind. Well, I was looking at the horse
and she was looking straight at me, or it seemed so.
Her outlines were dim, it was so close to evening,
she moved with an unfettered grace, uneasy
and blissful at the same time, so calm
and beautiful that I began to smile
and could not eat. I jumped up, stretched my palm
out and, look, she was on it, now wandering away
and getting smaller, smaller. No harm
is greater than to think it was a dream.
I ask myself if you keep memories,
rotating like a crazy clown under
the eye of Jupiter. And if he let you go,
where would you go? What direction
would your instinct choose? Like a hungry horse,
would you find your way home, to the stables
to hide from darkness with your own kind,
or would you roam into the woods of chance
and pick your own goal? How could you tell
the difference between your freedom and the past
of bound slavery? Like a bucket in the well,
you would be moving up and down on the mast
of a cracked sweep, returning to your cell,
pushed by the hands of wind’s relentless blast.
When the night plays its harpsichord, the trees
move around on the legs of their roots,
with the sparrows hidden in their leafy branches,
tenaciously holding them with their claws,
when our visions chase each other, butterflies
made of day’s pollen and a daylong dream,
you look at us, I tend to think, as if
we were some marvel, through our gloomy skies.
Perhaps each movement here corresponds
to your own movement and we can’t foresee
the impact of the future memory
upon your settling hills and icy ponds
that dream of the eruption of the sea
under the crust that suffocates and bonds.
I know what can happen here: the door,
the handle, the torn blind, the space between,
my hand is like a gaudy weathercock
that points at something it can touch no more
than a cracked tea-pot lying on the floor
can sip from the Pacific. I become
a vain continuation of the things,
deleting their urge to rise and go.
Without me they would have come to you,
without me you would have merged in one,
my mind is holding like a sticky glue
the things that would have risen and begun
to wriggle into heaven as I do,
but what I fail to do, they would have done.
I’m waiting for the night to see your face,
its modest promises, its saddened look,
I prick the night with a firm telescope
that spills my vision all over the lace
that covers you. I tried but I can’t race
like a cicada in the midst of night
or like a gleeful glow-worm burning bright
that keeps all its desires in one place.
My universe is what I see in it,
my past is what I choose it to become,
my mind droops from the night like a ripe plum
whose halves resemble pincers that have split
the stone inside. My angel has a drum
but he’s too shy to lift it or to hit.
But if he does - then everything will be
so different, so fresh, but I don’t know
if this will happen. Every wing is slow
when it must race against uncertainty.
Europa - I have said your name. You see
that nothing happened. I have loved you so
that I forbade the winds to swell and blow,
I stopped all sails from spreading over me.
I stayed like a street pigeon in the arch,
I was myself the echo and the wing,
I watched the seasons’ non-persistent march,
the planets jerking on the rusted spring
held by the sun, but I have failed to match
your wave and its redundant murmuring.