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Three Poems by Viktor Sosnora

THE CONTOURS OF THE OWL

Midnight flowed secretly as the sap of birch trees.
Policemen stiffened like fingers on street corners.
Only shepherd dogs clinked their chains before the buildings,
moving their tails like the microbes of cholera.
Deep sleep. Buildings somnolent as the work of a dramatist
for whom reality is banished from his pages.
Three million curtains keep reality at bay.
Three million lampshades heighten somnolence.
But on the chimneys and the drainpipes,
on the park-hedges, the balustrades and aerials,
everywhere perched the owls.
They are the owls, they are the owls!
I know those haughty shapes!
In fearful, fur-covered coats—they are the owls!
They part their bony lips and smile with arrogance,
illuminating the depths of the city with their snow-white eyes.
Oh my city! Oh Tsarina!
torn by the beaks of owls grinning like pikes,
these birds blaspheme over your captive, naked body
in the glow of their white, insolent eyes.
Oh my city! Captive city!
But someone stands upon the central square,
bald and in oil-skins, like the tsar’s statue,
with furrowed brows, his bald head blazing red,
his hands pressed to his head like ears.
He seems to be surrendering, his hands already raised,
he is captive, a huge torch, a steel worker or blacksmith;
but in reality all was much simpler:
he had not even seen the birds.
He was smiling gently at the melodies of his hands,
five stringed musical instruments.

FIR TREES CLANKED LIKE GREEN METAL!

Dawns licked them.
Frosts speared them.
Fir trees clanked like green metal.
Like skate-blades against ice.
A grand station gong.

Each fir tree’s cupola was cocked
Like a metalworker’s helmet,
Like a castle above ramparts.
Though the fir trees clanked like green metal,
I knew for certain:
They are wooden.

They, the green plantings,
are freezing
With each milligram of their protoplasm,
They are warm-pitched,
They are heartwooded,
And they wait unable to wait:
Maybe—a holiday?

But winter can’t linger or sentimentalize
In such godless winters as ours,
Trees must still clank like metal,
Or else…
   we know what will happen.

LETTER

Remember me in your garden,
Where ants parade with their red shields,
Where lily-like, enormous sparrows
Luxuriantly spread their petals.

Remember me in your country,
Where the birds flew off to a warmer world,
Where from a spire, a golden angel
Kept trying to fly south…but failed.

Remember me in your garden,
Where fruits, rung bells, reverberate
Funereal,
   where spiders twine
Their sheer meridians of webs.

Remember me in your tears,
Where the white nights bind like shackles,
Where each evening the palaces,
Blue-uniformed, guard you.

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