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Five Russian Poets Contemplate Taking In A Ballgame

1

Shall we go? Shall we not?
If so I'll bring this mitt
I've dug out of a dusty trunk,
Though its fingers will likely break off
If I use it. In truth it's junk.

What say you, Yesenin?
I mean to go. You in?


2

Did this train depart its terminal,
Smearing its gray smoke across the leaden skies?
I think I heard the whistle, subliminal,
Offering to me its restless lies
That plunge through my chest from back to front,
And are twisted quickly before the shrill shriek
Of copper's tootler, and his his steel-toed blunt
Kick, send happy brawlers sprawling. Speak,
My best old pal Yevgeny.
Zhenya: Thoughts. Have you any?


3

When you split my sleep with this query,
And broke the day over my head
Like an egg into a pan,
I stilled my leaping heart by plunging it into the cold water in this teapot.

I rose, already old and weary,
Barely able to flee my bed,
Thinking: This is Turkmenistan,
Where Russian hearts are served, cold but beating, while, in the blazing sun, the bodies rot.

It's no joke, Sasha, I am leery.
I can be forced; I can't be led.
I'll sit on this Ottoman,
And drink this bitter broth. It is a taste my tongue has known. Osip! To flow, or clot?


4

Mudlarks. Tadpoles and croakers.
Flat-bottomed boats with broken poles,
Steering by a star.

We'll sit before a screamer,
Maybe behind the foul pole,
Like at Babi Yar.

Umpires call out foul or fair;
I too decide: I'll flip a coin.
Heads: Game. Tails: A bar.

Anna Andreyevna! Are you there?
Please to call it while it's in the air.


5

We head downtown, all of us,
Down the black streets, while a moaning voice torments us:
Tickets!
But I warn you, that while you all warm yourselves
Against the flat cold of the evening with your pocket flasks,
And sing your drinking songs, and give the raspberry to bullpen yokels,
I, who am sitting here, watching, noting, listening,
Shall keep this record,
Etched with pain,
Scored by tears,
Wrapped in the careful crinkling glassine,
Long past your day,
And as you slowly turn to dust, somewhere,
This will attest: You were here, right here, once.

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