By The Sea by Semyon Lipkin

The waves crashed under the flicker of the lighthouse

and I, in my ignorance, heard a monotone.

Years later the sea speaks to me and I begin to understand

there are birds and laundresses, sprites and sorcerers,

laments and curses, moans and profanity, white horses

and half breeds who rear up unexpectedly.

There are waves who are salesgirls with buxom hips

who sell foam from the counter, they tremble fluent or airy.

Nature can’t be indifferent, she always mimics us

like a loan, a translation; we’re the blueprint, she’s the copy.

Once upon a time the pebble was different

and so the wave was different.

 

by Семён Израилевич Липкин (Semyon Izrailevich Lipkin)

(1965)

translated by Yvonne Green


Lipkin is renowned as a literary translator and often worked from the regional languages which Stalin tried to obliterate. Lipkin hid a typescript of his friend Vasily Grossman‘s magnum opus, Life and Fate, from the KGB and initiated the process that brought it to the West.

Lipkin’s importance as a poet was achieved once his work became available to the general reading public after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the many years prior, he was sustained by the support of his wife, poet Inna Lisnianskaya and close friends such as Anna Akhmatova, Joseph Brodsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn (who thought him a genius and championed his poetry). Lipkin’s verse includes explorations of history and philosophy and exhibits a keen sense of peoples’ diverse destinies. His poems include references to his Jewish heritage and to the Bible. They also draw on a first-hand awareness of the tragedies of Stalin’s Great Purge and World War II. Lipkin’s long-standing inner opposition to the Soviet regime surfaced in 1979-80, when he contributed in the uncensored almanac “Metropol” and then he and Lisnianskaya left the ranks of the official Writer’s Union of the USSR.

The Talking Shop by Mike Jenkins

In the Talking Shop

they spit out bones

which an auxiliary sweeps up:

they’re crushed and made into gloss

for the latest glamorous brochure.

 

They talk white paint, plush curtains,

flowers and plants in the foyer:

they shred leaves of Chaucer

to garnish an exhibition.

 

Cogs of paper push hands

and a clock somewhere

justifies its existence.

They decide to decide later.

 

All the pounds left over

from multi-gym exertions

are heaped on the floor

for clients to sketch

in their frequent boredom.

 

In the Talking Shop

originality is a luxury

nobody can afford:

and if you complain

the word-detectives soon arrest

your mouth and use it to bin

the scraped paint, dead flowers, shoddy curtains.

 

by Mike Jenkins

from This House, My Ghetto