You are currently viewing mouths identical to mine

Language: Russian  
Poet: Polina Barskova
Translator: Valzhyna Mort
Region: Russia / USA


mouths identical to mine

A poem by Polina Barskova translated by Valzhyna Mort

This poem appears in Air Raid, now available from Ugly Duckling Presse. 

POLINA BARSKOVA is a poet and a scholar, author of twelve collections of poems and two books of prose in Russian. Her collection of creative nonfiction, Living Pictures, received the Andrey Bely Prize in 2015 and is forthcoming in German with Suhrkamp Verlag and in English with NYRB. She is the editor of Written in the Dark: Five Poets in the Siege of Leningrad (Ugly Duckling Presse) and has three collections of poetry published in English translation: This Lamentable City (Tupelo Press), The Zoo in Winter (Melville House) and Relocations (Zephyr Press). She has taught at Hampshire College, Amherst College, and Smith College. She teaches Russian Literature at the University of California at Berkeley.
VALZHYNA MORT was born in Minsk, Belarus. She is the author of the poetry collections Factory of Tears, Collected Body (both from Copper Canyon Press), and Music for the Dead and Resurrected (FSG), which was shortlisted for the International Griffin Prize and named one of the best poetry book of 2020 by The New York Times. Mort is a recipient of an NEA Literature Fellowship (for translation), as well as fellowships from the American Academy in Rome and the Lannan Foundation. Her work has been honored with the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry, the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize. She teaches at Cornell University and writes in English and Belarusian.


Ирине Сандомирской

За всё это время
За всё это время
Мне было выдано два часа покоя
Время расступилось и пропустило меня
Катька надела на меня маску, приделала ко мне трубку
И сказала: плыви.
Я поплыла и увидела, что это такое.

Одно за другим появлялись огромные лица рыб
С таким же как у меня ртом.
Рыба слеза рыба коза рыба вы все угадали правильно стрекоза
Рыба моль рыба узник

Но ближе всего к моему лицу подплыла рыба старуха
Thalassoma ballieui
Непонятно, была ли она самец старуха или самка старуха
Небольшое серое животное
Молодые старухи переливаются нежными красками
В зрелости старухи мутнеют
Рыба старуха единица моего времени
Времени моего контейнер
Двигалась вдоль коралла прожирая его насквозь
Я же двигалась за ней, обдирая о риф локти и колени
Мы были одно.
О дно
Ударилась рыба и стала птицей.
Рыба птица приблизилась к рыбе старухе.
Они недолго там поделили молчанье о сем, о том, повисели рядом,
Держась за скользкую, твердую выпуклость рифа
Голодным и сильным ртом.
Каждое утро
На острове
Я просыпалась от страшного, возбужденного хора птиц.
О, как страшно кричали они о
Наступлении нового дня. 


to Irina Sandomirskaya

All this time
All this time
Allotted me two hours of peace
Time has parted in front of me
Katie strapped a mask onto my face, attached a tube
And said: swim
And I swim and see what it’s like

One after another huge fish faces appear
Mouths identical to mine
Fish tear drop fish nanny goat fish dragon boat 
fish moth fish yard bird

Nearest to my face swims an old woman wrasse
Thalassoma ballieui
Whether she is a male old woman or a female old woman remains unknown
A small gray beast
Young old women are iridescent 
With age they go dim
An old woman wrasse is a unit of my time
A storage unit of my time
Gorges through coral riffs, behind it
I move scraping my elbows, knees
We are one
The fish bangs
Itself on the bottom
And turns bird
Fish bird nears fish old woman
They exchange silences, hang together
Holding on to the hard, slippery reef
With their strong, hungry mouths
Every morning
On the island
I am woken by a horrid, excited choir of birds
How horridly they scream
Greeting a new day.

Copyright © Polina Barskova, from Air Raid (published by Ugly Duckling Presse, 2021)
Translation copyright © Valzhyna Mort, 2021