I by Mike Jenkins

I is the biggest word

in the English language –

some people yawn bored

as soon as you mention it.

 

I know people who erect crosses

made from it

and then refuse to carry them.

 

I know people who would

like to keep changing it

every week like fashionable clothing.

 

I know people who hate it so much

it’s become an obcession,

like a priest always ranting against sin.

 

In English, ‘I’ begins the sentence:

the other words queue up behind it

waiting for their instructions.

 

You must write ‘I’ with a capital letter.

but ‘we’ with a small one.

Why? … well… as in God and Great Britain.

 

i know a person who tried to make it

mock itself, to disguise an ambition.

i know a person who thinks it will outlive

the exploring body, the inflated mind.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from Empire of Smoke

Epic Motifs [extract] by Anna Akhmatova

I would gaze anxiously, as if into a mirror,

at the grey canvas, and with every week

my likeness to my new depiction grew

more strange and bitter…

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1914-1916)

translation by Boris Dralyuk and Margo Shohl Rosen


This extract is about a well known potrait of Akhmatova by Nathan Altman (1914) presented above for ease of reference. Nathan Isaevich Altman was a Jewish-Russian, Soviet, avant-garde artist, Cubist painter, stage designer and book illustrator.

Plainsong by Vladislav Khodasevich

Choke all week in the fumes and air stinking

of fear, for the bare means of life;

spend the Saturday dozing and drinking,

with your arm round an unlovely wife.

 

Then on Sunday by train for an outing,

with a rug to spread out on the grass,

just to doze off again, never doubting,

that for pleasure this stands unsurpassed.

 

And then wake up and put on your jacket,

drag the rug and wife back to the flat,

and not once curse the rug and attack it

with your fists. The world, too. Look, like that!

 

With the same kind of modest expression

do the bubbles in soda ascend,

in a meek and well-ordered procession,

up and up, one by one, to their end.

 

by Владислав Фелицианович Ходасевич (Vladislav Felitsianovich Khodasevich)

(1926)

translated by Michael Frayn