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Poetry

The Water Freezes

By Alla Gorbunova
Translated from Russian by Elina Alter
The anthology This Is Us Losing Count is published this month by Two Lines Press. The eight Russian poets in the collection interrogate memory and reinvention. Here Alla Gorbunova finds metaphors in nature.

The water freezes,
becoming a heavenly body.
Myriads of January flowers bloom—
white at first glance, but then
a thousandfold colors:
oyster-pink, the color of brick dust,
of a fire at the market, of a frightened nymph’s thigh,
the color of a merry widow and a lovesick toad,
hyacinths, heliotropes, carnations,
pigeon throats.
            The Judas tree blooms,
the cardinal burns in the straw, the eyes
of the partridge are staring forward.
Crushed-lingonberry sky, sky of the Moscow Fire.
Your cheeks are pinked with Parnassus rose.
My thoughts are dark, like a spider’s plotting crime.
They’re repulsive, like the vomit of an empress.
And you—
you’re beautiful as brazilwood,
astonishing,
and rose ash
lies on your shoulders. 


“The Water Freezes” by Alla Gorbunova, translated by Elina Alter, excerpted from
This Is Us Losing Count, published by Two Lines Press 2022. Reprinted with permission from Alla Gorbunova and Elina Alter.
 
 
Related Reading:

“Stories from Ings and Oughts,” by Alla Gorbunova, translated by Elina Alter

“Young Russophonia: New Literature in Russian” by Hilah Kohen and Josephine von Zitzewitz

English

The water freezes,
becoming a heavenly body.
Myriads of January flowers bloom—
white at first glance, but then
a thousandfold colors:
oyster-pink, the color of brick dust,
of a fire at the market, of a frightened nymph’s thigh,
the color of a merry widow and a lovesick toad,
hyacinths, heliotropes, carnations,
pigeon throats.
            The Judas tree blooms,
the cardinal burns in the straw, the eyes
of the partridge are staring forward.
Crushed-lingonberry sky, sky of the Moscow Fire.
Your cheeks are pinked with Parnassus rose.
My thoughts are dark, like a spider’s plotting crime.
They’re repulsive, like the vomit of an empress.
And you—
you’re beautiful as brazilwood,
astonishing,
and rose ash
lies on your shoulders. 


“The Water Freezes” by Alla Gorbunova, translated by Elina Alter, excerpted from
This Is Us Losing Count, published by Two Lines Press 2022. Reprinted with permission from Alla Gorbunova and Elina Alter.
 
 
Related Reading:

“Stories from Ings and Oughts,” by Alla Gorbunova, translated by Elina Alter

“Young Russophonia: New Literature in Russian” by Hilah Kohen and Josephine von Zitzewitz

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