The Monk and the Childby Anzhelina Polonskaya
Translated by Andrew Wachtel
In the cognac twilight sheep hearts will keep on beating to the rhythm of the switch,
after our exile a stocking’s elastic will slip down—air ripped by shepherd’s smoke;
Returning home, by the church gates a monk will find his sorrow in a bast basket—
an abandoned child, whose age
will suggest beating a path to the silted pond; but having torn away the
yellow rushes with his nails, he’ll draw back from the water in terror,
having seen the wrinkled white triangle
of a face and not his star
in the reflection. Loud steers will bellow in the stockyard.
and then, having emptied his backpack he’ll stomp
cheese and blood sausage into the roadside dust, and roll in wormwood ‘til dawn.
He’ll go mad, and lose his faith in the spines of wise books,
in joyful blackberry fields, and in the vaults
where once he mortified his flesh and repented with lowered eyes, but only in Latin;
The child will sleep tranquilly as children do, and upon waking
will stare at him—from the corner of his eye.
ANZHELINA POLONSKAYA lives in Moscow. "A Voice: Selected Poems" was published by Northwestern University Press in 2004.