THE CROWS OF SAINT MICHAEL

 

To M., my Brother-in-Arms.

______________________________

We stopped, exhausted, at a desert road…
The wind, for once, had held its putrid breath
And all was quiet, save for laughing crows
And random wails of someone’s distant death.

We drank some water, moved our gear about,
And tried to calm our crackling swollen knees.
The white-eyed Sun was smirking through the clouds
And licking salty crust upon our sleeves.

I smiled at you, you smiled at me… embattled,
We bore that tired sandbox-glamor guise.
The ruck frames moaned and weapons softly rattled
As we picked desert out of our eyes.

You said: “These last few days were hard, for sure.
But we’re almost done – this, too, shall pass.
It’s our disease, and there is no cure
Except to take it, bear it, and kick ass.

Maybe Saint Mike could help us, pay a visit,
He’s, after all, our own patron saint…
But I am sure the man has been too busy
With other wars and other people’s pain.

I heard that, long ago, he would appear
On fields of battle where heroes die –
There used to be a lot of real heroes
Who earned the right to fly back to the sky.

With lightning, thunder, shattering the clouds,
He flew through wind and rain at falcon’s speed…
Perhaps he used to do that, but I doubt
That’s what it ever looked like, when he did.

Who knows… lots of things nobody knows
And no one can, no matter how one tries –
Like why, for God’s sakes, these incessant crows
Are always laughing when somebody dies?

Ah, we can think of that when we get home
And get a bit of respite from the noise…
Right now we gotta move, it’s time to go.
You ready? Good. Come on. I’ll tell the boys.”

We moved along and entered into town,
Its face chomped up by rotten teeth of war,
With houses dressed in every shade of brown
And stars of bullet holes on every door.

The Sun was gently kissing the horizon…
We walked along a narrow quiet street
When, suddenly, I saw the ground rising,
And Earth erupted underneath your feet…

A moment later lightnings pierced the air,
The clouds tumbled, shattered into dust,
The wind woke up and howled in despair,
I saw a falcon fly across the dusk…

And then the world went dark. I still could hear
The song of raindrops falling from above.
But, slowly, the singing disappeared
And all was calm, and crows didn’t laugh.

Because - no matter how many others
Might disbelieve, or ridicule, or scoff -
That day for you, and only you, my brother,
Saint Michael told the crows to fuск off.

 

 

EMBATTLED

___________________________

Stumbling through the shadows, bewildered, befuddled
Shshshocked into confusion, beclouded, bemuddled
Riding upon the wind, flying through the night
Tempestuous, tumultuous, betrothed to the fight

Where, and when, and what
Where, and when, and what
Where, and when, and what
Wherewhenandwhat, I want to know

Streaming through the struggle, subconscious, unconscious
Firing into fear, ferocious, rambunctious
Roaring past the screams, laughing at the pain
Innocuous in nocuous, a raindrop in the rain

Where, and when, and what
Where, and when, and what
Where, and when, and what
Wherewhenandwhat, I want to know

Enveloped in the darkness, unnoticed, unknown
Enhaloed with the starlight, ennobled, enthroned
Innominate vein ablaze, falling through the sky
Yes, I might stop living. No, I cannot die!

Where, and when, and what
Where, and when, and what
Where, and when, and what
Wherewhenandwhat I fought...

 

 

SHE WALKED AHEAD, MYSTERIOUS, BEGUILING...

___________________________

She walked ahead, mysterious, beguiling…

Blue gentle curves contrasting red and white,

Through happy streets, a random quiet alley,

She walked ahead, recondite, proud, light.

 

Nobody knew, nobody could have known,

That on this night, exuberant and loud,

She was bemused, conflicted, and alone

Among the joyous singing of the crowd.

 

What lead her? Wistful hope of distant pining

Or pain she couldn’t bear to leave behind?

Was she in search of something not worth finding

Or fighting for what she had yet to find?

 

The summer night, impertinently festive,

Facetiously beclouded the sky.

The river, dark and reticently restive,

Caressed her shadow as she strode by.

 

She stopped. The wind grew stronger. She was smiling…

And heaven cried with billions of pearls.

She stood alone, mysterious, beguiling,

The hands of rain enveloped in her curls.

 

 

MAY 31ST

___________________________

Springtime. Molten asphalt. Feeling hazy

Under sweaty fingertips of rays.

Graceful bees in dirty yellow panties,

Like my thoughts, fly thousands of ways.

 

Sudden wind tears up the sky; beheaded,

Spring falls under Summer’s scorching knife…

Is it only one more May that’s ended?

Or is it 1/?th of life?

 

 

BENEATH THE DRUNKEN SMILET OF THE CRESCENT...

___________________________

Beneath the drunken smilet of the crescent

I’m clawing at the nascent edge of dawn…

The snow dances, shyly incandescent,

To the insipid rhythm of my song.

 

What is this song but just a roaming cloud,

Enchained by tired sleeplessness of night,

Bereft of silence and adrift on sound,

Beset by darkness and upset by light?

 

Why is my music rampant and besotted,

Why are the chords unhinged and unconstrained,

The broken glass of happiness unwanted

With shards of random uselessness and pain?

 

 I know… the wind that howls in the hedges

And, blithely laughing, throws the stars askew,

Again has written on the window ledges

That it’s because I am without you.

 

 

LETHE

___________________________

Behold,

The icy breath of Lethe has descended upon us...

Oh, how bright is her voice,

How light is her touch!

She tempers the timpani of a racing heart with a gentle murmur of a quiet song;

dampens the desolate glissandi of wolves' poetry beneath the snowy blanket of time;

She soothes,

in soft scordatura,

the discordant discontent of screaming strings.

 

Becalmed, 

we are adrift on the deceitful sea of listless languor.

 

But look...

there, in the midst of this innocuous quiet,

sleeps,

restless upon the glowing embers of memory,

despondent yet defiant,

the ever-temulent

Love.

 

 

CHUCKLE AND CHILL

___________________________

Notes, accents, rhythmic rhymes

Flying through my power lines

Daring, deriding, dissonant, discordant mess.

 

Growing, roaring, soaring sounds

No conventions, limits, bounds

Defying defining,

Deafening, defiling dance.

 

Love it, hate it, smirk or smile

Think it's cool or out of style,

 

Just

 

Check a tune,

Check a tune out,

Check a tune out,

Check it, check it, check it, chuckle, and chill.

 

Just

Check a tune,

Check a tune out,

Check a tune out,

Check it, check it, check it, chuckle, and chill.

 

Ringing, singing, stinging words

Grinding codas, bursting chords,

Desperate delusions,

Desolate, deserted dreams.

Then it stops... you raise your eyes,

Quit the hows, quit the whys,

Pure and unstoppable,

The music simply streams...

 

Love it, hate it, smirk or smile

Think it's cool or out of style,

 

Just

 

Check a tune,

Check a tune out,

Check a tune out,

Check it, check it, check it, chuckle, and chill.

 

Just

Check a tune,

Check a tune out,

Check a tune out,

Check it, check it, check it, chuckle, and chill.

 

 

BUZKASHI, 2001

___________________________

It’s difficult to breathe in Kandahar.

Thick yellow dust plugs up the horses’ throats

When rugged tribesmen gather from afar

To fight for mangled carcasses of goats.

 

It’s difficult to think in Kandahar

When in your head, struck by opponent’s whip,

You only see the breathless rust of stars,

Like those which glow above the Towers’ heap.

 

Millennia later, when we’re but a sigh

Of history forgotten and unknown,

In the sepulchral night these stars will cry

Of souls that once through steel to them had flown.

 

 

URSA

___________________________

You are smiling to me…Sky is lightless,

Only Ursa, beclouded, in vain

Tries to share its delicate brightness

With the insolent music of rain.

 

On a canvas of darkness, the lightning

Burns its golden impetuous threads,

And your whisper is heard in the winding,

Evanescent leggiero of breath.

 

Minutes’ cruel, intangible madness…

Night impassively withers and dies.

You are smiling to me through the sadness

Of our hopeful, uncertain goodbyes.

 

And whenever, beholden to reason,

We are years and oceans apart,

You will suddenly hear the rhythm

Of my quietly whispering heart.

 

And, awakened by petulant sounds,

Dressed in memory’s shadowy dew,

You will see that above, in the clouds,

Eyes of Ursa are smiling to you.

 

 

The Wretchedness of Man

From Andreas Gryphius (1616-1664)

___________________________

What is man, after all? A dwelling place for torment,

 

A twinkle of these times, a toy of playful chance,

A stage for bitter fear, beset by horrid pains,

A scoop of melted snow, a candle, quickly burning.

 

This life shall fly away like idle games and chatter.

Those who before us dropped the feeble body’s dress

And had their names inscribed into the Book of Death,

Long time ago in hearts and minds have been forgotten.

 

Just as a useless dream shall flee a human brain

And as a stream shall flow, which force cannot constrain,

So have to dissipate our name, praise, honor, glory.

 

Whatever’s breathing now must into air dissolve,

Whatever follows us, one day must breathless fall,

What, then? We fade like smoke upon a windy morning.

                                                                                        (1637)

 

 

Sing it, sing! On the goddamn guitar…

From Sergei Esenin (1895-1925)

___________________________

Sing it, sing! On the goddamn guitar

Strings are rattling under your hand.

Let me drown my howling heart

In this stupor, my last real friend.

 

Don’t stare at her wrists, her fingers,

At the silk streaming down from her head.

I was looking for happiness in her,

But discovered my ruin instead.

 

Didn’t know that love’s a cancer,

Didn’t know that love’s a blight.

Came along and with mischievous glances

Drove the hooligan out of his mind.

 

Sing! Bring back, through the drunken blather,

All our turbulent youth, my friend.

It’s alright, let her kiss another,

Young, impetuous, beautiful tramp.

 

Ah, hold on. I don’t blame her, I don’t.

Ah, hold on. I don’t curse, don’t scream.

Let me play you a song of my own

To the roar of the lowest string.

 

Flowing dome of my rose mornings,

Golden dreams in a fragrant purse.

Many women I’ve grabbed in dark corners,

Put my hands on a whole lot of girls.

 

Yes, there is a harsh truth on this Earth –

As I child, I once saw in a ditch

Pack of ravenous dogs taking turns

Licking hungrily juice off a bitch.

 

I’m not jealous. For what? To what end?

There’s no reason to cry or to growl.

Our life’s but a sheet and a bed.

Our life is – to kiss and to drown.

 

Play, guitar! In this fateful rocking

There’s a perilous fate of these hands.

But you know what? I’m saying – fuck’em…

‘Cause I ain’t never dying, my friend.

                                                                   (1923)

 

 

Farewell, My Friend, Farewell…

From Sergei Esenin (1895-1925)

___________________________

Farewell, friend, I bid you good-bye now.

Dear, you’re forever in my soul.

This predestined parting bodes somehow

Yet another meeting after all.

 

Farewell, my friend, no shaking hands, no sighing…

Do not sadden brows and do not grieve.

There is no novelty in dying,

But, of course, it’s just as old to live.

                                                         (1925)

 

 

There lived a poor knight…

From Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837)

___________________________

Many centuries ago

There lived a poor knight,

In appearance pale and cold,

But in spirit - brave and bright.

 

Once he had himself a vision

Not so easily explained,

And the forceful apparition

Burned itself into his brain.

 

By Geneva, near a ferry,

Unbelievably surprised,

Saw the knight the Virgin Mary,

Blessed mother of the Christ.

 

From that day, his soul in ashes,

He ignored the womenfolk,

And, impervious to passions,

Didn't look at them or talk.

 

Kept the visor tightly closed

On that sullen face of his,

And the neck adorned he always

With a thread of prayer beads.

 

Didn't speak to God the Father,

Nor the Ghost, nor the Son,

Didn't care, didn't bother -

Very strange he had become.

 

Near an image of the Lady

He was spending days and nights,

Softly crying, genuflecting,

Turning skyward mournful eyes.

 

Filled with love, daydreaming, praying,

Faith and hope in his heart,

Painted "Ave, Mater Dei"*

On his battle shield, in blood.

 

While impetuous crusaders

On the Palestinian plains

Rushed toward the adversaries,

Seeking glory for their dames,

 

“Sancta Rosa, lumen coelum!”**

He would shout in righteous wrath,

And his bellows, fierce and solemn,

Scattered muslims from his path.

 

Then, returning to his castle,

Steeped in solitude and peace,

Sad, enamored still, and frazzled,

He expired, without a priest.

 

As he lay, serenely dying,

But a moment from the knell,

Devil came in there, trying

To betake his soul to hell -

 

Said “he never tried confessing,

Fasting, praying to the Lord,

Spent his life unseemly chasing

After Mother Mary's skirt.”

 

But the Pure One defended

Her devoted knight from harm,

And the paladin ascended

To her throne in kingdom come.

___________________________

* Hail, Mother of God!

** Holy Rose, Light of Heaven!

                                                                         (1829)

 

 

Oh, the world is so full of tomcats…

From Sergei Esenin (1895-1925)

___________________________

Oh, the world is so full of tomcats,

You and I couldn't count them all.

Heart is dreaming of redolent pea plants,

And a star's distant jingling call.

 

Was I conscious? Awakening? Sleeping?

It just seems from that faraway day

I remember the purr of a kitten,

Who impassively stared my way.

 

Though a child, I recall the sounds

Of my grandmother's quiet song.

Like a tiger, the kitten would pounce

At the string she was dragging along.

 

All has passed. I have lost my grandma,

And some time afterward from the cat

Someone fashioned a fur hat for grandpa,

And our grandpa wore out the hat.

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