Poppies by Nesta Wyn Jones

August, in Brittany,
And in the breeze sways and pirouettes
A red ballerina.

Brittany
As if someone
Had thrown tiny pieces of red
Tissue paper
Over the hedges
And they’d all unfolded
Flaming
In the sun.

August
And my hand itched to gather them,
But I knew, if I did,
There’d only be the stain
Of red
On my fingers
When the dew lifted.

Twilight, August in Brittany.
Into the dark staring and staring
I see their purple bruises
In every corner
Quaking
To the rumpus of crickets.

Here,
There’s a wreath of plastic in the rain…
It’s not that flower that’s plaited in it.

by Nesta Wyn Jones

(b.1946)

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Воззвание председателей земного шара (Manifesto of the Presidents of the Terrestrial Globe) by Velimir Khlebnikov

Only we, blasting your three years of war
Through one swirl of the terrible trumpet,
Sing and shout, sing and shout,
Drunk with the charm of the truth
That the Government of the Terrestrial Globe
Has come into existence:
It is We.
Only we have fixed to our foreheads
The wild laurels of the Rulers of the Terrestrial Globe.
Implacable in our sunburned cruelty,
Mounting the slab of the right of seizure,
Raising high the standard of time,
We fire the moist clays of mankind
Into jugs and pitchers of time,
We initiate the hunt for people’s souls,
We howl through the gray sea horns,
We call home the human flocks –
Ego-e! Who’s with us?
Who’s our comrade and friend?
Ego-e! Who’s behind us?
Thus we dance, the shepards of people
And mankind, playing on the bagpipes.
Evo-e! Who else?
Evo-e! Who next?
Only we, mounting the slab
Of ourselves and our names,
Amid the sea of your malicious pupils
Intersected by the hunger of the gallows
And distorted by the horror of imminent death,
Intend by the surf of the human howl
To name and acclaim ourselves henceforth
The Presidents of the Terrestrial Globe.
What snots, some will say.
No, they’re saints, others will object.
But we shall smile like gods
And point a finger at the Sun.
Drag it about on a string for dogs,
Hang it up on the words:
Equality, fraternity, freedom.
Judge it by your jury of jugglers
On the charge that once,
On the threshold of a very smileful spring,
It instilled in us these beautiful thoughts,
These words, and gave us
These angry stares.
It is the guilty one.
For we enact the solar whisper
When we crash through to you as
The plenipotentiaries-in-chief of its ordinances,
Its strict mandates.
Corpulent crowds of humanity
Will trail along the tracks
Which we have left behind,
London, Paris and Chicago
In their appreciation
Will change their names to ours.
But we shall forgive them their folly.
This is the distant future,
But meanwhile, mothers,
Bear away you children
Should a state appear anywhere.
Youngsters, hustle away and hide in caves
And in the depth of the sea,
Should you see a state anywhere.
Girls and those who can’t stand the smell of the dead
Fall in a swoon at the very word “borders”:
They smell of corpses.
For every chopping block
Was once a good pine tree,
A curly pine.
The block is only bad because
It’s used to chop off people’s heads.
Such is the state and its government.
You are a very nice word from a dream –
There are ten sounds in it:
Much comfort and freshness.
You grew up in a forest of words:
Ashtray, match, cigarette butt.
An equal among equals:
But why do you, state, feed on people?
Why has the fatherland become a cannibal
And the motherland his wife?
Hey! Listen! In the name of all mankind
We offer to negotiate
With the states of the past:
If you, O states, are splendid,
As you love to say of yourselves
And you force your servants
To say of you,
Then why this food of the gods?
Why do we people crunch in your maws
Between your incisors and molars?
Listen, states of space,
For three years already
You have pretended
That mankind is only a pastry,
A cookie melting in your mouth;
But what if the cookie jumps up like a razor and says:
Mommy!
What if we are sprinkled on it
Like poison?
Henceforth we order that the words “By the grace of God”
Be changed to “By the grace of Fiji.”
Is it decent for the Lord Terrestrial Globe
(Long may his will be done)
To encourage communal cannibalism
Within the confines of himself?
And is it not the height of servility
On the part of the people, those who are eaten,
To defend their supreme Eater?
Listen! Even pismires
Squirt formic acid on the tongues of bears.
If there should be an objection
That the state of space is not subject to judgement,
As a communal person in law,
May we not object that man himself
Is also a bimanous state
Of blood corpuscles and also communal.
If the states be truly bad,
Then who among us will lift a finger
To cut short their dreaming
Under the blanket: forever.
You are dissatisfied,
O states and their governments,
You chatter your teeth in advance warning
And cut capers. But so what!
We are the higher power
And can always answer
The revolt of states,
With the revolt of slaves,
With a pointed letter.
Standing on the deck of the word “suprastate of the star”
And needing no cane in this hour of rolling,
We ask which is higher:
We, by virtue of the right to revolt,
And incontestable in our primacy,
Protected by the law of patents
In declaring ourselves the Presidents of the Terrestrial Globe,
Or you governments
Of the separate countries of the past,
These workday remnants by the slaughterhouses
Of the two-legged oxen, with whose
Cadaverous moisture you are smeared?
As regards us, the leaders of mankind,
Which we constructed according to the rules of rays
With the aid of the equations of fate,
We reject the lords
Who name themselves rulers,
States and other book publishers
And commercial houses of War & Co.,
who have placed the mills of dear prosperity
Under the now three-year-old waterfall
Of your beer and our blood
With a defenselessly red wave.
We see the states falling on their sword
In despair that we have come.
With the motherland on your lips,
Fanning yourself with military regulations,
You have brazenly introduced war
Into the circle of the Brides of man.
But calm yourselves, you states of space,
And stop crying like girls.
As a private agreement between private persons,
Along with the societies for admirers of Dante,
The breeding of rabbits and the struggle against marmots,
You come under the umbrella of our publishing laws.
We shall not touch you.
Once a year you will assemble at an annual meeting
To make an inspection of the thinning forces
And observe the right of unions.
Remain a voluntary contract
Of private persons, needed by no one,
And important to no one.
As boring as the toothache
Of a seventeenth-century granny.
You compare to us
As a monkey’s hairy hand and foot
Signed by an unknown fire god,
Compares to the hand of the thinker
Who calmly directs the universe,
This rider of saddled fate.
Besides, we are founding
A society for the defense of states
Against rude and cruel forms of address
On the part of the communes of time.
Like switchmen
At the cross ties of Past and Future,
We regard with as much composure
The replacement of your states
By a scientifically constructed mankind
As the replacement of a bast boot
By the gleaming glow of a train.
Comrade workers! Don’t complain about us:
We, as architect workers,
Take a special path to the same goal.
We are a special weapon.
And so the battle gauntlet
Of three great words has been thrown down:
The Government of the Terrestrial Globe.
Intersected by a red flash of lightning,
The sky-blue banner of the firmament,
A banner of windy dawns, morning suns,
Is raised and flaps above the earth.
There you have it, my friends!
The Government of the Terrestrial Globe.

by Велимир Хлебников (Velimir Khlebnikov)
a.k.a. Виктор Владимирович Хлебников
(Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov)
(1917)
translated by Gary Kern

Воззвание председателей земного шара

Только мы, свернув ваши три года войны
В один завиток грозной трубы,
Поем и кричим, поем и кричим,
Пьяные прелестью той истины,
Что Правительство земного шара
Уже существует.
Оно – Мы.
Только мы нацепили на свои лбы
Дикие венки Правителей земного шара,
Неумолимые в своей загорелой жестокости,
Встав на глыбу захватного права,
Подымая прапор времени,
Мы – обжигатели сырых глин человечества
В кувшины времени и балакири,
Мы – зачинатели охоты за душами людей,
Воем в седые морские рога,
Скликаем людские стада –
Эго-э! Кто с нами?
Кто нам товарищ и друг?
Эго-э! Кто за нами?
Так пляшем мы, пастухи людей и
Человечества, играя на волынке.
Эво-э! Кто больше?
Эво-э! Кто дальше?
Только мы, встав на глыбу
Себя и своих имен,
Хотим среди моря ваших злобных зрачков,
Пересеченных голодом виселиц
И искаженных предсмертным ужасом,
Около прибоя людского воя,
Назвать и впредь величать себя
Председателями земного шара.
Какие наглецы – скажут некоторые,
Нет, они святые, возразят другие.
Но мы улыбнемся, как боги,
И покажем рукою на Солнце.
Поволоките его на веревке для собак,
Повесьте его на словах:
Равенство, братство, свобода.
Судите его вашим судом судомоек
За то, что в преддверьях
Очень улыбчивой весны
Оно вложило в нас эти красивые мысли,
Эти слова и дало
Эти гневные взоры.
Виновник – Оно.
Ведь мы исполняем солнечный шепот,
Когда врываемся к вам, как
Главноуполномоченные его приказов,
Его строгих велений.
Жирные толпы человечества
Потянутся по нашим следам,
Где мы прошли.
Лондон, Париж и Чикаго
Из благодарности заменят свои
Имена нашими.
Но мы простим им их глупость.
Это дальнее будущее,
А пока, матери,
Уносите своих детей,
Если покажется где-нибудь государство.
Юноши, скачите и прячьтесь в пещеры
И в глубь моря,
Если увидите где-нибудь государство.
Девушки и те, кто не выносит запаха мертвых,
Падайте в обморок при слове «границы»:
Они пахнут трупами.
Ведь каждая плаха была когда-то
Хорошим сосновым деревом,
Кудрявой сосной.
Плаха плоха только тем,
Что на ней рубят головы людям.
Так, государство, и ты –
Очень хорошее слово со сна –
В нем есть 11 звуков,
Много удобства и свежести,
Ты росло в лесу слов:
Пепельница, спичка, окурок,
Равный меж равными.
Но зачем оно кормится людьми?
Зачем отечество стало людоедом,
А родина его женой?
Эй! Слушайте!
Вот мы от имени всего человечества
Обращаемся с переговорами
К государствам прошлого:
Если вы, о государства, прекрасны,
Как вы любите сами о себе рассказывать
И заставляете рассказывать о себе
Своих слуг,
То зачем эта пища богов?
Зачем мы, люди, трещим у вас на челюстях
Между клыками и коренными зубами?
Слушайте, государства пространств,
Ведь вот уже три года
Вы делали вид,
Что человечество –
только пирожное,
Сладкий сухарь, тающий у вас во рту;
А если сухарь запрыгает бритвой и скажет:
Мамочка!
Если его посыпать нами,
Как ядом?
Отныне мы приказываем заменить слова
«Милостью Божьей» –
«Милостью Фиджи».
Прилично ли Господину земному шару
(Да творится воля его)
Поощрять соборное людоедство
В пределах себя?
И не высоким ли холопством
Со стороны людей, как едомых,
Защищать своего верховного Едока?
Послушайте! Даже муравьи
Брызгают муравьиной кислотой на язык медведя.
Если же возразят,
Что государство пространств не подсудно,
Как правовое соборное лицо,
Не возразим ли мы, что и человек
Тоже двурукое государство
Шариков кровяных и тоже соборен.
Если же государства плохи,
То кто из нас ударит палец о палец,
Чтобы отсрочить их сон
Под одеялом: навеки?
Вы недовольны, о государства
И их правительства,
Вы предостерегающе щелкаете зубами
И делаете прыжки. Что ж!
Мы – высшая сила
И всегда сможем ответить
На мятеж государств,
Мятеж рабов,-
Метким письмом.
Стоя на палубе слова «надгосударство звезды»
И не нуждаясь в палке в час этой качки,
Мы спрашиваем, что выше:
Мы, в силу мятежного права,
И неоспоримые в своем первенстве,
Пользуясь охраной законов о изобретении
И объявившие себя Председателями земного шара,
Или вы, правительства
Отдельных стран прошлого,
Эти будничные остатки около боен
Двуногих быков,
Трупной влагой коих вы помазаны?
Что касается нас, вождей человечества,
Построенного нами по законам лучей
При помощи уравнений рока,
То мы отрицаем господ,
Именующих себя правителями,
Государствами и другими книгоиздательствами,
И торговыми домами «Война и К»,
Приставившими мельницы милого благополучия
К уже трехлетнему водопаду
Вашего пива и нашей крови
С беззащитно красной волной.
Мы видим государства, павшие на меч
С отчаяния, что мы пришли.
С родиной на устах,
Обмахиваясь веером военно-полевого устава,
Вами нагло выведена война
В круг Невест человека.
А вы, государства пространств, успокойтесь
И не плачьте, как девочки.
Как частное соглашение частных лиц,
Вместе с обществами поклонников Данте,
Разведения кроликов, борьбы с сусликами,
Вы войдете под сень изданных нами законов.
Мы вас не тронем.
Раз в году вы будете собираться на годичные собрания,
Делая смотр редеющим силам
И опираясь на право союзов.
Оставайтесь добровольным соглашением
Частных лиц, никому не нужным
И никому не важным,
Скучным, как зубная боль
У Бабушки 17 столетия.
Вы относитесь к нам,
Как волосатая ного-рука обезьянки,
Обожженная неведомым богом-пламенем,
В руке мыслителя, спокойно
Управляющей вселенной,
Этого всадника оседланного рока.
Больше того: мы основываем
Общество для защиты государств
От грубого и жестокого обращения
Со стороны общин времени.
Как стрелочники
У встречных путей Прошлого и Будущего,
Мы так же хладнокровно относимся
К замене ваших государств
Научно построенным человечеством,
Как к замене липового лаптя
Зеркальным заревом поезда.
Товарищи-рабочие! Не сетуйте на нас:
Мы, как рабочие-зодчие,
Идем особой дорогой, к общей цели.
Мы – особый род оружия.
Итак, боевая перчатка
Трех слов: Правительство земного шара –
Брошена.
Перерезанное красной молнией
Голубое знамя безволода,
Знамя ветреных зорь, утренних солнц
Поднято и развевается над землей,
Вот оно, друзья мои!
Правительство земного шара!
Пропуск в правительство звезды:
Сун-ят-сену, Рабиндранат Тагору,
Вильсону, Керенскому.

Additional information: The book I referenced transliterated the poet’s name as ‘Velemir Khlebnikov’ but I confirmed it is ‘Velimir Khlebnikov’.

The translation omits the last 3 lines:
Пропуск в правительство звезды: / Сун-ят-сену, Рабиндранат Тагору, / Вильсону, Керенскому. A rough translation of which is: ‘Star Government Pass: / Sun-yat-senu, Rabindranath Tagore, / Wilson, Kerensky.’ These lines reference political figures of the day: the first provisional president of the Republic of China, Sun Yat Sen; the Bengali polymath, Rabindranath Tagore; the 28th president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson; and Alexander Kerensy who was a Russian lawyer and revolutionary who led the Russian Provisional Government and the short-lived Russian Republic for three months.

Following are a few footnotes from the book I referenced:

1)This is final version of a 1917 test prepared by Khlebnikov’s disciple Grigory Petnikov. The title is taken from the poet’s list of his works.
2) Evoe is the cry of the Bacchae. Ego-e is a neologism.
3) The ten letters in the word Government (or the eleven letters in the Russian word gosudarstvo). Khlebnikov believed that every sound holds a hidden meaning and found “much comfort and freshness” in these particular letters.
4) [You grew up in a forest of words]: A sardonic allusion to the Symbolists and their doctrine that “man passes through a forest of symbols.” The phrase comes from Baudelaire’s Correspondences.
5) [States of space]: Khlebnikov opposed all the states of the world existing on the spatial plane with his own “communes of time,” a world government existing on the temporal plane.

Khlebnikov, born Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov, was the son of an ornithologist. He studied mathematics and natural science at the University of Kazan and began to write poetry in his student years. In 1908 he studied at the University of St. Petersburg without graduating and began to publish his poetry in various collections. He quickly joined avant-garde circles and became one of the founders of Russian Futurism. David Burlyuk and Aleksey Kruchyonykh began to publish small collections of his poetry in 1913 and 1914.

Viktor Shkovsky, in his book Hamburg Account, compared Khlebnikov’s standing in Russian literature with the relative strengths of the professional boxers that competed behind locked doors in Hamburg: “In a Hamburg accounting Khlebnikov is the true champion.” As Vladimir Mayakovsky said: “Khlebnikov is not a poet for the consumer, Khlebniov is a poet for the manufacturer.” Today we might say, “Powerful but not necessarily user friendly.”

Obsessed but the very element of language, by the magic of creativity with words, by ideas about the confluence of mathematics and art, Khlebnikov wandered about the land like a dervish, without a roof over his head, stuffing pillowcases with rough drafts of his poetry. In his experimental work he prepared the ground for many of Mayakovsky’s breakthroughs in new form and in part for Boris Pasternak as well. His influence can be felt in the work of Daniil Kharms, Aleksandr Vvedensky, and Nikolai Zabolotsky. Revolting against the mysticism of Symbolism, Khlebnikov was interested in coining new words and in developing a new “trans-sense language” (zaumnyi iazyk, or zaum), a language beyond sense that would facilitate the Futurists’ avowed intentions of scrapping the culture of the past, as expressed in their 1912 manifesto “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste.”

Khlebnikov’s genius is unquestioned, though much in his poetry is ineffably complex, chaotic and unassembled. Phenomenal lines are sometimes interspersed with bewildering semantic enigmas. Fortunately, Khlebnikov today ceases to be a poet only “for manufacturers” and lives on in the souls of many readers who are not at all literary professionals. This Don Quixote, who calls himself “President of the Terrestrial Globe,” never betrayed his one and only Dulcinea, poetry and he has been rewarded with posthumous acclaim.

Biographical information about Khlebnikov, p.120, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. (transcribed as found in the original text).

Postcard by Christine Evans

‘Any kind of shape makes this a lie’.

If this were a film…
Long shot of approaching train.
Martial music. Cut to faces.

But it is only another planet, and Poland’s
Most successful tourist attraction.

Poplars screen the furnances
But the view is mostly what our parents might have seen:
Blank horizons, scrub struggling into leaf
Pools of scum reflect a coffin-lid sky.
Wind from the steppes moans round the crumbling brick.

If this were a novel
It would be cathartic recollection
In a hotel bedroom or smoky fifties café
Pages of blocked monologue
Somewhere towards the middle.

A youth stands guard over a small fire of litter.
Curling headlines, chocolate wrappers, a child’s red glove.
Flames here burn thin and cold.
If this were a nightmare
We could hope to understand ourselves through it.
We flock here to look and shudder and walk away
Stunned by embers.

But the rows of bunks are rough as cattle stalls,
Limewash homely as the barns of childhood.
(Even in the interests of authenticity
You could not expect them to expect us to endure
The smells of fear.) Wire at the windows. Clenching cold.

Cleaners’ brooms and buckets rattle.
There’s an irritation in the eyes like ash.
Sulphur from the smelters in Katowice:
Dusk thickens early in this poisoned air.

If this were the history of a civilisation
It might be a footnote, towards the end.

Warm the light, with colour, the tourist buses
Are pulling out. This is only one stop
On a crowded schedule.

by Christine Evans

Dossers at the Imperial War Museum by Joyce Herbert

A place devoted to death. At noon, when I came out, the sun
struck at my eyes. I’d been trying to hear Minnenwerfers,
catch the flare of a Verey light, the thud of a phosgene shell.

Across one wall a blinded daisychain of men went clambering
like stricken insects waving feeble antennae. Eyes burnt out,
they clutched the jacket of the man in front:
this neat clean dugout never knew them, neither did
the model soldier standing at the door, his webbing blancoed,
boots bright, puttees perfect, head high.
A general’s delight.

There were photographs of running figures wavering,
lurching, buckling at the knees. There were humped heaps
fallen, stranded like fish on a desolate beach.

Sunshine showered sparks, drenched the steps.
I could not see, shaded my eyes.
They were all out there. Some tide of war had washed them
down the steps from Bapaume or the Somme,
rolled in cocoons of blankets, sprawled on their backs, knees up,
spilled on the shaven glass:
prone near the flowerbeds they slept like stones,
jaws dropped, mittened fingers clutching.
Far under bushes I could see them
in attitudes of death,
rolled in their plastic bags waiting for something to happen.

by Joyce Herbert

Soldier by Anna Wigley

What did he see in the war, my father?
All I have are the photos – small sharp stills
from a 1940s film: Trevor Howard,
angular, tanned, glancing up handsome
from the shade of a cocked serge cap.
His hands, fine and strong, held compasses, maps;
knew the levers of lorries and the shafts of guns.
The same hands that cupped my head
like an egg when I tripped and fell,
could tell the cool weight of a grenade, the exact bite
of a Stanley knife. Had laid out the dead.

I could well believe he’d been a soldier,
the hardness of his body showed it.
And the way he held the bowl of his pipe,
firmly, with a kind of sure commitment:
this is what I am, these are my tools,
my equipment. There are tasks to be done.
It was there in the weave and cut of his clothes:
things well made, stout for their purpose –
gaberdine and wool, best leather, double-stitched,
double-knotted, built for wear and weather.

What could he do in peacetime
that would compare with those days
deliberate as a bird’s of animal’s days
when there’s food to be found, nests to be made?
The medals meant nothing:
trinkets, he called them. But the men –
ordinary, afraid and brave,
welded to him in the long slow furnace
of shared smokes in canvassed trucks,
nights under desert skies – it was they
who brought up the light in him,
repeating their lines forty years on.

What of the rest could he find to say
to a young girl who knew only
the safe house of his steady arms,
the gentleness of his delphinium eyes;
and the cheerfulness worn casually,
daily, like collar and tie.

by Anna Wigley