Monthly Archives: August 2007

Dmitri in The Park

I arrived with The Hare at a large recreational park central to a city with a large, frightened population. It was too early for many to be out in force, and morning joggers tend to give oversized talking animals a wide berth.

“Dmitri!” I shouted, “…how the devil are you? Have the lunatics taken over the Asylum like you said they would?”

I helped The Hare to get up onto the park bench where Dmitri sat. It was cold, and while his shaggy fur could withstand the lightly-falling snow, we could see his breath as well as we could smell it.  

Dmitri chewed on a bone, and began to speak. The Hare looked curiously at him, the dog smiled like only a dog can, then The Hare flopped to his side, to cuddle his warm dogsbody, which was made even cosier by the lingering vapours of some cheap, paint-stripping Vodka.

“Well, Pyotr, my friend. Perhaps the Devil has my Soul, and is now satisfied. It is a curious thing to see Beelzebub at peace. How are you? And your…Rabbit?”

The Hare was insulted, jerked his head away from Dmitri’s side.

“This is my travelling companion, who goes by the name of the The Hare”

“I see. And you two, I hear, are studying for the Accreditation? What a great honour that is. I imagine, as students of the Art and Science of Pyrology and Sleep, you have no trouble with this cold”

“That we don’t Dmitri”

“How are you finding it?”

“Well…”

“It is tough. Who’d have thought that the simple elements of Fire and Sleep would be so complicated? But listen, the module in Fire takes care of itself, as long as you do whatever it is you do with energy and enthusiasm. But to have energy, what must you do?”

We spoke in unison; “Sleep.”

He laughed under his breath.

“Get those bags from under your eyes, and you’d be a model student. And follow the example of…” he coughed, “…Old Dog Dmitri. Stay away from the alchohol.”

The Hare laughed.

Dmitri continued; “You’ll have no problem.  I couldn’t write for sushki, but you?  A good writer must be able to dream, but also have a sense of responsibity, akin to that of the nuclear scientist. The darkest days of my life were when I lost faith in my own people –  that was when I lost any notion of my responsibility as a human, and I took to drink and idly chewing these bones.  My publishers have refused to take on my next project. I even got the citations wrong. I have seen so much suffering Peter, and it is true – many great writers have suffered –  but I wish this for you, I pray you do not suffer, espeicially over something as silly as Fire and Sleep. Indeed, I fear the world is yet to wake you. But that will be your lesson. Why must you have this “Hare”?

The Hare and I gazed at each other, with wonder, and yet some discomfort at being forced to consider something we never thought we would.

“Is he introducing you to the world, or insulating you from it? Forgive me, I have seen so many Devils in my time that I no longer can tell one from an Angel. Perhaps it is your destiny to always live someone else’s bothersome epic .”

“He is a friend, I said.”

“And he can conjure visions?”

“Not conjure. See.”

“I have heard this before, from a student under my tutorage. How long will this last? Until the World becomes a Vision?”

“You are drunk”

“No, I am not. My vocabulary…and my English..fourth language, you know. Still impeccable.”

“Well, then you are an egotist.”

“Broadcast it to the World why don’t you?!? Where is the World? Could you point to it on a map? Not anymore!”

“My friend and I are leaving. Farewell, “Dmiti the Mongrel”, there’ll be no more “windows” in my schedule.”

The Hare jumped off the bench sharply, and followed.

Continue reading Dmitri in The Park

“Loneliness” by Anna Akhmatova

So many stones are thrown at me,
They no longer scare.
Fine, now, is the snare,
Among high towers a high tower.
I thank its builders: may
They never need a friend.
Here I can see the sun rise earlier
And see the glory of the day’s end.
And often into the window of my room
Fly the winds of a northern sea,
A dove eats wheat from my hands…
And the Muse’s sunburnt hand
Divinely light and clam
Finishes the unfinished page.

Continue reading “Loneliness” by Anna Akhmatova

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Dream a little.
Knock on wood.
Returning home
from the puppet show.
Each marionette looked like someone we knew;
we got spooked out by the foliage.

I could use you as a broom,
if you were a tree branch
and not a person.

To sweep away the messy crockery –
that smashed teacup,
in surprise.

Sleep awhile, you’ll wake with energy
to gaze upon the
feint red birds.

The show is over,
still the punters
proceed to hum,
and swallow coins.

The wind blows slow
upon the audience.
Some of them request refunds.

While others could do
without their riches…

”…and all their loneliness!”

– you and I.

In England, We Say “Toilet”, While In Paris They Say “Love”

“I haven’t got much to offer you, you know, my house is a toilet”

“You mean you don’t tidy?”

“No I don’t. I’m big on honesty, and to tidy my toilet before you come round – should you wish to visit, which you won’t – would be disingenuous.

But let’s be “country simple”, as they say. I do live in a toilet. It’s my bathroom and my restroom. I have a modest selection of boardgames, magazines and a Gameboy Colour. The screen in slightly scratched, and I only have Tetris.”

“Tetris? I like Tetris”

“Everybody likes Tetris.”

“Yes, but its really irritating.”

“It is, but addictive. It has quite an interesting history

“Oh really? I’m not the slightest bit interested.”

“Oh, that’s a shame ‘cos my toilet is shrouded in the kind of  grim romance that one enjoys in ex-Communist countries. It’s a good place to sit and think.”

“Do you think that maybe, like so many bricks in so many games of Tetris…if we fit together, we might disappear?”

“Oh no…I shift colours and you change shape”

“I see, that might be uncomfortable come nightime”

“You don’t know what uncomformatable is until you’ve slept in the Water Closet.”

“I don’t know why we’re having this conversation. This is just a silly videogame.”

“Yes, and you’re distracting me….Do I win?”

“‘Course not, you’re a geek.”

A Dog Has Died by Pablo Neruda [Trans. by Alfred Yankauer]

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I’ll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he’d keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean’s spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don’t now and never did lie to each other.

So now he’s gone and I buried him,
and that’s all there is to it.

“I’m Not Dead Yet” by Osip Mandelstam

I’m not dead yet, nor alone—somebody
Delights in the vast majestic plain
With me—my friend the beggar lady—
And in mist, hunger, blizzard, rain.

I live calm and self-possessed,
In beautiful poverty, humble opulence.
These days and nights are blessed,
And sweet-voiced work is innocence.

Unfortunate is one who feels the chill
Of his own shadow, fears a dog’s bark, or succumbs
To the wind’s scythe—but unhappier still
Is one who, half-alive, begs the shadow for crumbs.