Polina Barskova



        –Translated from Russian by Alex Cigale

Shivering, crawl under mushroom’s skirt,
Pinching the dense, poisonous sponge cap,
Or in sadness caress the fragile membranes
Knowing the thing before you is gremlin-like.

Splitting it open, to lick – is it you, the right one?
And if a flat-out bitterness flashes in the pan,
Then you – unfamiliar, lifeless – if good and ripe ….
Climb in the basket, chanterelle, vixen, silly darling.

[the hunt]
Applause to the mosquito – its blood-gorged pitch,
Its trembling shadow, threaten the hunter with
Rapture and prick of sorrow, once the battle is done
And your combatant’s bitten the dust, filled with you.

As a dress seam with a thread night’s stitched through:
He sews, emits a bellicose signal in the dark – insatiable
Thirst, whilst he alights to drink, he displays how
Transparent and pitiable he is – my sweet little enemy.

[the night]
Tell me in the toad language with the toad’s own tongue
Why the moon’s muddled clump skates along the stream
Tell it to me in the fish’s language with an oafish tongue

May the still water resonate with a regular squawk
Like the premonition of trouble, its inside turned out,
Your presence noxial, your presence in the diurnal,
Immaterial (the smoke), but knowable (Home).

The blaring of voices in the evening garden
The droning of toads in the darkening hour

I await I thirst I continue
Come night I will meld with the dew

[language/the tongue]
POLINA BARSKOVA is one of the most accomplished and daring of the Russian poets of her generation. Born in 1976 in Leningrad — now called St. Petersburg, as before — she began publishing poems in journals at age nine and released the first of her six books as a teenager. She came to the United States at the age of twenty to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, having already earned a graduate degree in classical literature at the state university in St. Petersburg. Barskova now lives in Massachusetts and teaches at Hampshire College. A collection of her poetry This Lamentable City, is available from Tupelo Press.


About the Translator:

ALEX CIGALE’s poems and translations have appeared in Colorado, Cimarron Review, Green Mountain Review, Literary Imagination, Modern Poetry in Translation, New England Review, PEN America, Two Lines, and World Literature Today. From 2011 until 2013 he was Assistant Professor at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He is a 2015 NEA Translation Fellow for his work on the poet Mikhail Eremin of the St. Petersburg “philological school” and is currently editing the Spring 2015 Russia Issue of The Atlanta Review.

Read more translations by Alex Cigale in B O D Y.


Read more by Polina Barskova:

Poem in B O D Y