Daniel Weissbort. 07.06.06
Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary and my very best wishes.
My wife Valentina Polukhina, a noted Brodsky scholar, loves your poetry and tells me that she sees a lot of Brodsky in it: the way you have integrated philosophical insights, the destiny of your metaphors.
I liked your poetry from the start, when I read some poems in Almaty. I was particularly impressed be the irony, allowing your poetry to be all-inclusive, with apparent casualness, although it is also clear that you are a master of prosody.
I have attempted to retranslate a few poems and append them. They are not yet finished and I wpuld appreciate your comments. I have noted one problem, and look forward to your response.
However, if you wish to use them anywhere, please feel free. I look forward to further collaboration with you and I am delighted that we met on my alas too brief visit to Kazakhstan.
With my very best wishes to you,
And warm regards to your wife and daughter,
Poems by Auezkhan Kodar
Letter to Nowhere
I’m going to write a letter, if only to shake off this mood.
I’m deceiving the muses, but they’ll not mind.
Even if the calendar has all its pages ripped out,
In the garden, apples and plumes abound.
No garden my calendar, stripped by my hand.
So, it’ll be autumn! Everything stays the same!
The changing colours and days no longer disturb.
I don’t expect any good news today.
Wandering, I’ll signal the errant star.
Labyrinthed in the consciousness is the gardener, in bloom?
On thins shaky earth, I am Abay’s surreal bricks
Too crowded the universe, at home too much room.
Either time has reared up, compressing space,
Or the roads have strayed, leading only to Sodom.
But grasping at all, bruised by my forefathers silence
I’ll not find that niche, in it my forgotten home.
I laugh at everything, and helplessly shed tears;
Call this a trap, misfortune, destiny.
I’m no match for myself, living by guesswork,
Till some chance encounter, it could be with me!
Note: Abay Kunanbay (1845-1904), founders of modern Kazakh poetry, he wrot: “You are like a brick (childs building block) in the worlds building: // Find your niche and establish yourself there”
They try to tell me, man, you are
Not longer living in the USSR.
Kazakhstans now a power in its own right,
Meaning, we’ve our currency, our pride.
In those days, scions of the Saks,
We kept the ancient world awe-struck.
And now nomad self-esteem
Is echoed in London and Paree
And even Washington, I guess,
Deems us worthy of respect.
Can it be overdone, this mix,
From Derrida to sour milk?
They cram books, journals, making notes,
But, me, I call myself a poet,
Although they clamour that I am
Just Russian-speaking Kazakh man,
And so there are some who surmise
I’m negligible, really undersized,
Even I told myself quite high
Raising cups to Zhumatai.
He was a khan, I – his gofer,
Side by side on tattered sofas.
Poets flowed hither in a mass.
Seeking the masters sage advice.
For a bottle that weighed more
Than a dumb-bell, we donated peaks galore.
The accepted me with enthusiasm
In their avant-gardist battalion,
And there in some homely den,
Pot and pilav turned me on,
Trying to make sense of what Diels wrote,
Heraclitus my real mate.
Note: Zhumatai zhakipbayev (1945-1990), lyric love poet, post-modernist, a friend of the poet’s. He regarded himself as a descendent of Genghis Khan (Kagan).
Diels, translator into German of pre-Socratic philosophy.
Heraclitus is the cryptic Greek philosopher. 500 BC
In the newly erected buildings of Moscow
In the bottomless pit of the town,
I’m the last glimmer of truth,
With each autumn leaf
I lose myself,
Battered by buildings,
Everything here is taken care of
Individually, in its own right,
Everything flees everything:
Shadows flee houses,
Reflections flee the shimmer of hoardings,
People flee people,
Only the trees
let their limp leaves fall,
But hang on to their immobility.
In the subway there’s an awful crush,
Lining up to file into the capital’s maw:
Hopeless faces by the score.
In the sanatorium for Veterans
Night is falling. Sad! Again, no consummation.
A pile of books on the table, an agglomeration.
Outside the poplars cleave the mica-dark.
Smudges, yellow walls presage disaster.
I came to this house where old lives falter.
With their now insubstantial medals and orders,
The age has chipped idly away at their faces
Which like the mica of slit eyes pales,
Trenched with wrinkles, hiding shame and grief.
That grip its shoulders, sagging for relief,
Clumsily moulded by a hard, Bolshevik hand,
The age hurled them into the assault that knoll just beyond.
The age has stripped away hope, names, family pride,
For the littlest thing flung them aside,
And now they are looking for some respite.
The institutional gruel, masticate.
The age has shaken them off with a twitch of the reins.
Wretches, they aren’t used to a life without chains.
And whenever I’ve sortied, as it were, on duty detail,
In the huge room they’re ensconced in tattered chairs.
I came to this house, as if there were no other,
This exile to Bedlam, myself a stranger.
Who knows his place is not among the gods.
These old men, no worse than my own parental lot!
You, girl or old woman?
Or big of nose?
Or perhaps you are simply the air here?
Why do you play hide-and-seek with me?
Are you my past or present?
A strip of felt is the fleshless flesh of existence, /// Felt?
Yours has a soul.
And its just that I’m loosing.
I change into felt.
Save me, Miss Nil, if you can?
Actually, though, it’s myself saving you.
I can conjure up your image from non0existence.
I can, you sorcerer, bewitched,
You remedy against dumbness.
Since I speak for both,
And you can listen.
No small thing?
I am a classic of minimalism,
I love everything, beyond death and dumbness.
But then the body too. It is silent and worthless
And I particularly love the body.
Because it is you too.
Your body speaks, with all its bits and pieces,
Curves, secret haunts.
It speaks louder than words,
And I am its captive,
A Gulliver, at once large and small,
Small, because you are too large for me.
Large, because you are too small for me.
Take it from me, I’m instable,
But there’s only one remedy your voice,
The sole music that makes sense to me.
Like Scheherezad who hangs on to life as long as she talks,
Not flowers but thousands of little ears I’ll give you,
Petals of attention,
Which is inexhaustible, while I’m alive.
Totally sagacious Miss Nil
Has entered my life
Since, when I have changed my glasses every day,
Not finding a right lens.
She insists the white is best.
And there’s no need for other tints,
Since they but multiply temptations.
At night, her voice is scarcely audible
And instead of shoulders what I grab is space.
When I argue with someone
Till my nape aches,
She strews my head with ash
And leads me into a wilderness,
Where dervish, forgotten by god and the people,
Merges with the landscape.
And the bodies of wolf cubs are strewn,
felled by hunger.
Wild-eyed Miss Nil
Walks on spiky heels,
Leaving a trail of punch marks
On the virgin asphalt papyrus.
But who needs this endless dossier,
With neither letters nor hieroglyphs?
One has to register the disappearance of the text.
Nothing to interpret,
The game of meanings annulled
Beneath Miss Nil heels.
Miss Nil, o, Lady mine,
Like a red vixen, hiding in autumn.
Sky and memory
Or more to the point, the impossibility of remembering, of grasping.
The weight of impotent thought,
With the realm of phony effects.
I may be the one inclined
To excessive affectations.
And my gilfriend’s called Zero,
Being without essence,
On long legs,
I’m the best radish in the world!
I’m the best radish in the world!
A contemporary feminist.
Don’t need anything extra:
Instead of a black man, a chocolate slab,
Instead of a hubby, a decent bank account,
Instead of a close friend, a lesbian pal,
Instead of a heart, a calculator,
Instead of a lover, a dear little vibrator.
The only problem is I’m a cry-baby,
Although maybe it’s not me but the dachshund.
I don’t remember love
I don’t remember love.
I do remember waiting though,
The plunging of waitings blind foal within,
Fettered by craziness and faith.
The voice of the Ancient Turk
I was with Tengri; where is that God, my sublime god?
You’re not sublime, if you do not rule from above,
I had a khan, I remember, My Khan? Where?
Without ruler, faith, the land’s not there.
Once was a whole world; where has my world gone?
Once I was an idol, now I am naked and alone.
I did not close my eye at night; all was lost.
Where now are you, north, south, west and east!
I made them bow their heads, now I am well cursed,
I brought many to their knees, sowing fear at least.
Or, perhaps, heavens grace has cast me aside,
Punished, like some evil spirit, for forgetting our side,
I swear, I was frightened out of my wits!
How now make merry, ignoring grief?
I’ve had enough! Get out of my way!
I’m a Turk, and cannot be diverted from my faith!
I’m a Turk, who entered the steppes to lick his wounds!
I want to exist, pitying those who no longer do!
But there’s little sense even in life, if you waver.
In this life I’m no slave, but a king-player!
I’m a Turk, who shool the worls in his rage,
I claimes power, even before I was born into this age.
My banners streamed, where Euphratus and Tigris lie,
It was I invented all those war-games, I!
Time and space I kept on a tight rein forever,
Ruled over everything that lives, everywhere!
But tell me where I’ve gone wrong? Was I a fool
To strap heaven and hell to my saddle?
The distances challenged me with their stirring inebriation,
And the gods held their tongue, whatever the nation
Yes, I am old, but my temper is hot and young,
Since I have seen much and have never been wrong!
So listen to the predictions of this old khan;
Do not wait, dear, if I seem to be going I remain!
I’ll yet take to the field, raising the dust,
In imitation all who are brave, bold, and must
Know I am hungry but not greedy, So, learn!
If the world has done enmity, with it I’ll have done!
Note: Tengri is a sky god