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Feature: Back From the USSR
Alex Galper

Millbrook
Translated from the Russian by Misha Delibash

Clouds pregnant with rain.
The hills are as if within arms reach.
A renowned vineyard.
Long time spent traveling
to find the 2001 Pinot sold out.
A flood of 2000,
a whole ocean of 2002;
I'm not alone in discerning
Millbrook's good year.
Chatting with a sales girl
about philosophical disjoints
of fermentation methods steel or French oak?
Impressed with my deep knowledge
and an unfamiliar alien accent,
she relays with flirty twinkles.
But my other half like a watchdog
near; snatches at my elbow, and I must move on.
Godforsaken country.
Squeezed midst rocks and waters
Raped by a thruway;
Antique shop.
The wife dreams of antique earrings.
Useless piles of junk.
Tin cans,
20's jazz records.
Should I sharpen my dick
as a pin needle
to play these?
Books layered with dust.
Wait a second! What's this?
Fennimore Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans", 1826
First Edition!!!!!!!!!
The great chief Chingachgook!
On planet Mars
of the last Millennium
a nine-year-old I had found you
the night before surgery
at a hospital where fried cockroaches
in mashed potatoes were a local standard.
Mother slept on chairs
outside
in the hallway.
Father “missing in action”
fucking one of his many whores.
And none knew
if I would be after this; tomorrow.
Great Man of the red skinned race! Answer:
Why didn't my wife let me fuck the sales girl?
I'd have found the key to her
winemaking heart as well as the key to
the off-premises wine cellars.
I'd have worn three rubbers
and wouldn't have ejaculated till
she'd confessed
to where the president's cellar was, the one reserved for the Popes and such.
Worst-case scenario, we'd have all fucked, all three of us!
Great Winged Tyrant!
Kill the one who ages my Mother!
Make it so
I do not become a replica
of my father in his youth;
scalp those
who'd beat me to drinking
Christ's blood trademarked 2001!
2 am. Hunter's lodge. Chilly.
Stuffed grizzly's rack hoisted over the bed,
bison's over the toilet.
The wife asleep in satisfaction,
fucked for two.
The window looks out onto the Hudson.
as Chingachgook
flashes his tomahawk
from a drifting canoe,
my parents, there in the drift, bickering fighting,
are polishing off the last of the world's
Milbrook's Pinot Noir, 2001.

 

Invasion
Translated from the Russian by Misha Delibash

Genghis Khan's Horde hurtles toward New York
Thousands of horses, pillars of dust, frightful howls
Smoke plumes everywhere
Police don't know where to fire
Glimpses of swords, spears and bows in this lethal heap.
From within it fire arrows emerge
And pierce the throats of fat cops.
The barbarians are already on Wall Street
Billionaire brokers piss their pants
Offer credit cards
Cover themselves up with government-insured bonds
But bankers' heads are already rolling down the sidewalk
Covered in security papers
As if those were fall leaves.
It's a real slaughterhouse on Fifth Avenue!
The psychoanalysts explain to the savages
That all they really want is their mommy
And the jugulated scholars of Freud and Jung fall to the ground.
The world's best puppy groomers die in flames
The bodies of brilliant designers of hamster hats and kitty undergarments
Fall next to them.
The barbarians are already at the walls of New York University
Renowned feminist post-structuralists squeal
As they're thrown over saddles
To be had by a whole squadron of savage goons
If they don't babble about Barthe
The lesbo-professors may just finally get their first ever orgasm.

 

Enemy of the System
Translated from the Russian by Misha Delibash

10 years ago I wanted to get him a job,
"I can't do it!" he sneered.
"I'm a Drunk, My objective is to drink daily
And a job will only get in the way!"
There was so much pride in his words
Unlike the rest of us
He could party all night
Didn't need to painfully pull himself out of bed in
the mornings
He wasn't some corporate programming whore
Neither an emigrant-materialist
Neither a toiling dumbshit wage slave
But a Revolutionary, a punk, an enemy of the System
Tom Waits, Wysotsky and Bukowski
All at once
Driving a nail into the coffin of
Capitalism with every mouthful of vodka.
I watched year after year
As he lost friends, girlfriends, jobs
Now he’s dying alone from liver cirrhosis
He's short on cash
For drugs, food, rent
He evokes only pity
And does not look cool at all!

 

The Sky Colored Ball
Translated from the Russian by Olga Mexina

I was six years old, when my parents
Received a flat on a new block.
They befriended the floor neighbors
And I, their five-year-old, Serezha.

On a clear summer day
We went outside
For the very first time.
Sergei held a blue ball,
While the street kids played soccer
With a spotty black and white one.
They were happy and noisy,
And yelled obscenities at each other,
And started small scuffles
From time to time.
Serezha said to me:
- Let’s play right here without them.
- That is so boring.
I answered.
- But they are bad boys.
- So what! At least, they are having fun.
- But they say bad words!
- There are no bad words!
And so I left Sergei alone
To bounce his sky colored ball
Off the wall.

I became a street kid,
Cut classes, felt up girls in the locker room,
Raided gardens,
Served target for shotguns
(And once did get salt up my ass).
Serezha was a straight A student,
Has never uttered a foul word
And shunned all the street kids
(Including me).
Teachers eagerly set him as an example.
Sergei graduated with honors,
Got into college and law school.
Right then my family picked up and left,
And I completely forgot that he ever existed.

My mom received a letter recently
From Serezha’s parents.
He was an honest detective, who wouldn’t take bribes,
And was getting too close to the summit,
And he was warned – no use.
When he was lured into the woods, tortured, and hung
He was 27,
And his wife a widow at 19.

I fear corrupted governments
No less than honest detectives,
But I keep asking myself again and again,
If it wasn’t at that very moment, when the five-year-old
Remained alone with his sky colored ball,
That he put the rope around his neck?

 

Jose and Teresa
Translated from the Russian by Misha Delibash

On a quiet Brooklyn night
Jose and I were finishing off a bottle
of bitter Russian vodka -
Jose puffed on his cigar - ...naked black Teresa in the bedroom.
A bottle of sweet Jamaican rum, coke from a dirty rolled dollar;
I sneezed and then cried: so I don't get
Don Quixote in translation - in Spanish those windmills don't make any sense.
Jose blew a smoke ring, "I like you. You must have been a Colombian in your past life. I want to give you something:
In the wilderness of Peru, in the jungle,
I know a place... 30 tons of heroin, clean...
Get me an AN-24, a case of AK-47's
and half is yours.
You'll have enough to compose your Cyrillic nonsense
all over the world,
till you die."
I smiled wearily.
"A gig like that, and you won't need no woman to support you," he said.
I laughed.
"And with the money you can build yourself the best Russian Orthodox church in New York City!"
I laughed hysterically.
"The biggest synagogue then!"
I laughed even harder.
"You'll buy up all the critics
and your poems are going to be on the front pages of
the New York Times and “Noviy Mir."
I was consumed by hysteria... hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.
Jose shrugged me off with his tired disregard and dove back into the
Mexican TV soaps.
But I cried:
"Jose! I can't take this anymore!
Take me out of this shithole!
But not like this!
When you mentioned AK-47's, I shat my pants!
Don't leave!"
I dove into the LA soaps after him
but my head hit hard against the TV screen. I fell.
The lights of the Verrazano-Narrows outside
mocked me.
Losing consciousness,
I saw naked Teresa
lift her curly head and loudly moan: “Are you ever going to fuck me or what? Pussy!"

Jose in a bomber's cap!
My brain melts as I watch
you pilot the AN
with your "stuff"
through the spring sky of '86 Kiev;
radiation
from Chernobyl inflates the price of your junk
proportionally to the goddamn
absurdity of dosimeter measurements.
That awful, damned spring
I'd marched to the half-empty school
and had listened to you lie
about Lorca in Spanish,
miring his death
in the fate of a Russian drunk.
Jose, dressed in
a worn white shirt and soccer shorts,
holds his balls
in the out line, ---
however, Maradona passes the ball to Pele
Pele redirects it with his head
And the head of journalist Gongadze*
Flies right into Ukrainian president Kuchma
but here you are in a sombrero.
You read the Koran.
In a hopper jet you nip
the tops of the WTC towers
and pale white dust spreads
through New York.
Jose - a clearcoat toreador;
you enter the rink with the bulls -
but we've heard it all before : paranoid Putin
already jailed a skinny Jewish liberal, Khodorkovskiy, on this same stage;
he's got blood and oil
dripping from under the podiums.
Jose - mining a path in Venezuela and Chechnya,
next to Che Guevara and bearded Chechens
in an hour Chavez and Bush should pass by.

Here. Here I came to.
"Teresa! Water!"
Feeling my way through to the bedroom
I dreamed of salvation
through Teresa's
primal fire.
"Teresa, do whatever you want with me, you curly goddess! Mother Teresa, you wild cunt! Take me!"
But it's hard to spot a dark skinned woman in a dark room,
especially if she's already dressed and left
and you are high on insanity.
"God damn Teresa! Come back here!"
Of course, my miserable
3 inches
put the fair skinned race to shame,
my pathetic 3 inches of
guilt, shame, innuendos...
my 3 inches of
Auschwitz, Disneyland and Brighton Beach.

*Georgiy Gongadze – Ukrainian opposition journalist kidnapped and beheaded by alleged order of President Kuchma.

 

My Troubles
Translated from the Russian by Misha Delibash

...
— Sasha! Why don't you want to make cartoons out of your poems?
— What do you mean - I don't want to... - I do!
— Then, what's the trouble with learning the necessary animation software and doing it yourself, making a living that way and finally quitting that job you hate so much working with bums and junkies?

...
— Sasha! What's wrong with learning Chinese and sending your masterpieces to all the Chinese publishers and journals? I reckon you won't mind adding another billion to your readership?

...
— Sasha! What's wrong with learning how to play the guitar? You can record your own thug life folklore, sell it and perform it.

I'm dizzy from the boundless possibilities...
How wonderful that this is all possible and no trouble at all.

 

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Alex GalperAlex Galper was born in Kiev, Ukraine and has been writing poems and short stories since he could remember. Immigrating to America at the age of nineteen did not change it; to the contrary, majoring in Creative Writting at Brooklyn College and being mostly influenced by American poets created a fusion of Russian pessimism, Jewish humor and Western literary traditions and philosophy. Translations of his poems have appeared in over thirty magazines in the USA and the UK. In his adopted homeland, he is considered a cult underground poet, whereas mainstream Russian literary magazines ignore him for luck of respect for rhymes, heavy erotic imagery, and being "too American".

Alex Galper photo credit: Lisa Sinistra.

Misha Delibash is just Alex's closest friend and drinking buddy!

Olga Mexina is a poet and translator born in St. Petersburg, Russia who came to New York at the age of 12. She graduated from New York University, where she studied film and social science. She has created English subtitles for Russian films shown at the African Film Festival in New York and the Message to Man Film Festival in St. Petersburg.

 

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