A LITTLE ABOUT YOU, YOSIP
by ©IGOR POMERANTSEV
Translated by Frank Williams
One day Yosip caught a chill and decided to take his temperature. His attempts to do so met with no success, however. It transpired that Yosip had no underarms. To begin with he did not attach all that much significance to the fact. Usually when he was ill, Yosip filled his time by writing poetry. But on this particular occasion he could manage no more than two rhymes, good ones though - "what a lad - Volgograd" and "pretend he is - parenthesis". “Right", he decided, "file those away for future reference, and in the meanwhile ponder the situation as it stands now". For some reason he was suddenly struck by the thought that it wasn't a cold he had. "I've got common or garden gangrene" was Yosip's eventual self-diagnosis. He could physically feel the sole of his left foot going black, and this blackness had begun to spread slowly up to his ankle, it was creeping towards his knee. The bed, the little table with the medicines, with the raspberry jam, vanished and he realised that he was as black as the rest and running down the winding lanes of Yaounde. From time to time half-naked children called after him "Rickshaw! Rickshaw!" His unaccustomedly wide nose sucked in hot masses of air. Not so long ago, when Yosip thought in a different language, not Hausa, he had fallen in love. Yosip had thought of love before occasionally, during adolescence. His ideal lover was a woman he could leave a spare toothbrush with, so he could sleep in peace, without having to wait anxiously for morning. But until Galperina - that was his lover's name - Yosip had preferred baboons to women. He would go to the town zoo fairly regularly and stand for hours in the monkey house watching the cages. The powerful, shaggy arms of the females put his head in a whirl, made his nerve ends tingle. Recently, though, Yosip had been spending every spare moment with Galperina. And now, here in Yaounde, he felt like seeing her or at least telling somebody the bare bones of their affair. Yosip loved doing that: her bones were slender as if somebody had been whittling at them with a knife, and tinkled so delicately in his clumsy fingers... Then his mother came into the room and Yosip cringed. But his mother went out again without saying anything. His thoughts turned once more to his underarm, he even glanced where it had been at one stage, where there was now a yawning abyss. It hit you with a smell of stuffed fish for some reason. Yosip stared wide-eyed. Almost without wanting to, he brought his knees up tight against his chin and with a yell of "One love less in the world!" sprang into the abyss. An echo drifted in his wake: "...ove ...ove...ess..”
What did they do to you, Yosip? You still hadn't forgotten the time, had you, when your underarm was in place, all of a piece, and the thermometer didn't feel like a red hot icicle, when to be ill, to cry, to suffer was a joy? Do you remember the bendy rubber tube with the acidulous metallic head, the sister's adroit hand, your rapture which alternated with bouts of nausea, and in the afternoon lying on your right side with a hot water bottle against your stomach: six test tubes, six amber columns, six glass-encased rays of your bile, crystal pure rays which delighted your child's eye, sad beyond its years? At that time every day began with "there you are!", with "once upon a time..." Who is it that's twelve? You, Yosip. You're dressed in your new Czech-made milk-chocolate coloured suit with the tasty mother-of-pearl buttons. A velvet curtain, the colour of rotten cherries, flies open. Your sister, sitting next to it, leans right forward towards the pool of light on the stage and forces you down by your elbows - as if you weren't in a concert hall but were riding a roller coaster - back into your seat. And then a brown-haired man came out into where the spotlights met. His smile was melancholy, his hair gleamed, heaps of light, the applause crashed against his valorous breast, he had a slight limp and the band struck up music from which you could make ten, no, a hundred velvet curtains the colour of rotten cherries and upholster every seat in the hall. "Paramaribo, the town of the morning star". Farewell, sister! I won't be coming home. Farewell, my folks from Kolomiya, from Drogobych, farewell, too, Veronika Petrovna, loveliest of English teachers - we will never see each other again, I am leaving for Paramaribo without waiting for the dawn! "Now I want to sing a song written by a friend of mine which is dedicated to one woman in particular". Yosip, have you ever heard since a silence like there was in that hall at that moment? People forgot how to breathe, hearts how to beat. He started singing and you realised immediately that his intro was just a ruse - naive perhaps, noble perhaps, but a ruse nonetheless. This proud, wonderful man was now going to speak about himself to music, about what was most important in his life and when he spoke, spoke not sang, without being at all gushy, the following words; "I would like to kiss your daughter's eyes", the tears came tumbling down your cheeks and your sister couldn't restrain herself either, she snapped open the gilt fastener of her evening bag and carefully dabbed a scented hankie either to her nose or her eyes. Never, either before or later, was she as close to you as at that moment. A year later when you had become the school capital city champion, when you had got everybody, including the top years, hooked on this senseless game which involved leaping out from behind potted palms, from behind the lockers in the cloakroom with its fusty, throat-catching odour of drying overcoats, from behind the parallel bars, the basketball backboards, the goose pimpled mats stacked in a heap in the huge, cold sports hall to dart a quick question - "Cameroon?" or "Principality of Liechtenstein?", you found out that Paramaribo is the capital of Dutch Guyana. It wasn't the geography master, God rest his soul, who told you but the new girl you made friends with, and not just her first day - everybody's friends with new kids the first day - but the second, too, and the two hundredth.
Your things were packed the evening before, the taxi booked for 6 a.m. They wake you, take you into the long narrow kitchen, all the neighbours are still asleep. Your eyes prickle, like you're drinking soda water. The friable March air sprinkles through the ventilator straight onto your naked back. "Use your hands to wash, not your fingers" mother tells you. "You're not washing yourself otherwise, just giving yourself a wipe over". The tap hisses, the kettle's boiling on the gas ring: cold, hot, cold. Your vest strap slips down, hands are wet, eyes gummed up with soap suds. "Mum, pull up my shoulder strap". She pulls it up, kisses your back, her kiss trickles down your spine, skips, zings. A neighbour floats past like a snow-woman in her nightdress to the toilet where the lamp cluster symbolises communal friendship, comes out three minutes later firmly shutting the door that leads to the Niagara Falls, to Canada and the pine forests stuffed full of grizzlies, to North America where round every bonfire white boys sit chewing dried beef on the laps of taciturn Redskins. Niagara goes quiet. A towel chafes my cheek. Steam rises from the tea, strong and dark, a real muscles of a tea, Republic Youth Acrobatics Champion. You swallow it, Yosip, and become agile and muscular. Time to go! You get to the bus station an hour before the bus leaves. You make yourself a promise; when you grow up you'll always arrive for a bus, train, plane, boat, cable car, bike, velocipede, droshky, trap, dog cart, swan, white wolf, flea right on the dot, one minute before it leaves, so as not to drip, slouch, not to have to hang around so. All station flagstones have one abiding memory - the memory of puke. It'll take them ten hours to get you to the clinic and they'll get you there. This is your cot with bed linen that's raw and clean, though grey for some reason. But the blankets don't come in a linen envelope. A sheet comes between you and the blankets. At night it gets all caught up in a ball and you wake in the clutches of rough woollen material, not all of you wakes up, just your skin, elbows, knees and closed eyelids. You hanker after the remnants of sleep until morning, torment yourself not knowing whether to straighten the sheet out or not. The bottom of the top drawer of your locker is covered with yellowed, brittle paper, unstuck at the edges. This is where you keep your soap, toothbrush and toothpaste. The plywood shelf inside the locker's all tacky, the last person to use it liked glacé apricots. Your cot and locker are fenced off from the other boxes by transparent plexiglass walls. You're standing there in someone else's faded, washed-out things, your hair all wet, your face all red - you've just had a shower. A woman in a white overall nearby - either a nanny or a nurse. When you're all having your afternoon nap, the "dead hour", she glides noiselessly from box to box and if she sees somebody with their hands under the blanket she starts tutting. Yosip, you'll have to get used to the fact that keeping your hands under the blanket is dirty. They all look at you, boys and girls, and your eyes gum up, you were sick on the bus. They get you up early: in the wash room there's a bicarb solution ready for each child. You have to gargle it. Everybody hates the bicarb, but for some reason nobody dares tip it out. One girl asks you to gargle hers for you. You cannot refuse, you gargle, and you immediately begin to wish her dead. This happens every morning. The second week she sends you a note: "I love you like bread and butter and honey". They don't ever turn the lights off, day or night. A boy with a great swollen head passes the note. You spend the next week in a frenzy making up a reply, choke with hatred every morning gargling two lots of solution and when you put a full stop and a cross at the end of the note so she'll leave you alone, take a long walk, get lost, snuff it, the boy who acted as postman goes and dies, though for a whole month every morning at dawn the forgetful nanny put out a glass memorial - a tumbler of bicarb solution on the matt surface of the shelf. How frightened you were of that glass, Yosip. You lived in a sticky heat haze, in a rolling snowball, under a swollen watery sky, Yosip, plastered with salty rice gruel, on slippery ground, in a light as wan as a much used mustard poultice, loved like bread and butter and honey by a girl whose legs were distorted into an X, until at last six test tubes, six amber columns, six glass-encased rays of your bile, crystal pure rays, tinkled out a message to the whole world – cured! In May your sister came for you, you reached out a joyous hand to her, entered the part of little brother with delight, catching every word, eager to obey. A pity the game palled so quickly.
Come on, can anybody guess why you liked the second shift at school better than the first? Think, think hard. "Because your mum and dad weren't home". Cold. "Because you could have a lie-in". Freezing, so freezing you could catch pneumonia. "Because in the morning..." getting warmer... "you could go..." hotter, boiling hot "to the matinée at the pictures!" We're on fire, call the fire brigade! Of course, you could go to the pictures after the fifth or sixth lesson as well, as long as you managed to grab a bite to eat - you had to, otherwise being hungry gave you such a headache you couldn't enjoy the film or anything else either. When you'd wolfed something down, you had to try and buy a ticket not later than 3.55, because five minutes later, i.e. at 4.00, the price went up and a ticket cost not ten kopecks, not even twenty five kopecks, but thirty kopecks at least. And if you were held up because of something either you or your parents did, the last house as far as you were concerned was at 7.55, and not just because the prices went up again after that. The eight o'clock house was the end, disaster: they simply would not let you in, you're a "Juvenile under 16 years of age". A seven o'clock house was unreliable, too few and far between, mostly either at a club or the House of Officers. In clubs they screened the films really badly, and anyway they didn't have them every day. At the House of Officers it didn't matter how many turned up, it was always half empty, because the hall was so huge. It felt lonely and it was hard to hear. There was one other place, they always let anybody in there, at any time. That was the local history museum, all shabby and down at heel. But you went there either knowing full well you'd have seen the film twice before, or in winter, when they wouldn't let juveniles into the pictures because of quarantine restrictions. Can you remember, Yosip, how you first became aware of the cinema? Perhaps it was the question your sister always used to greet your mum and dad with when they came back from their Saturday night out: "How was the film?" It was usually your mum who answered. If she said "good", you thought the film was like the kind eyes and hands of your grandmother who had promised to eat you up more than once. If she said "heavy going" you thought of the song in which a glowering bearded man called Yermak all covered in clanking armour, was sitting one night on the bank of a river when he was surrounded by men with oily skin, slanty eyes and dressed in furs. They grabbed his arms and legs and threw him into a pool and, oh, how long the water bubbled and boiled in the river. The first film you saw, you realised that it hadn't begun with your sister's questions and your mother's answers at all, but with a fringed tapestry your grandfather had looted in Austria. The tapestry frightened you. It was, indeed, pretty grim: night, voluptuous stars, a lake and on its shore a valley ringed by bulbous, fleshy trees blacker than the night, a one storey house with a shingle roof and a single window showing the barest glimmer of light. A sweet German fairy tale. You loved summer not for its warmth and light shoes, but for the fact that it eliminated many of the problems connected with going to the pictures. Besides, the outdoor cinemas began to open in May. You could sit on a park bench beneath a high wooden board fence and savour that special, incomparable cinematic rustle. You liked it better than the voices. You could see a bit of the screen at one of the outdoor cinemas from a window on the sixth floor of the flats where you lived. After a violent struggle you won the end of the window sill which gave the best view. By July you had to guess what was happening on the screen because of the vigorous foliage. It was like one of those drawings in a comic: "Find the seven cyclists hiding in the bushes". Because you never missed a single film, you took in the title and country of origin (shown in brackets underneath the title) with a feeling of animated hopelessness. It was with a heavy heart that you went to Latin American films about gloomy, endless stone walls: Czech films from the Barrandov studios, their filtered, hazy landscapes drenched with a cosmic ennui made you feel queasy, like in the bus. You couldn't stand comedies, or audiences laughing. But worst of all were the two-part filmed stage productions. All those famous theatrical "honoured artists of the RSFSR", tortoises watching you from the screen, waiting for you to do something. For three hours you fought them single-handed and even before THE END rolled up on the screen, you would be almost running to the door marked, like outside an X-ray room, EXIT in big burning red letters. From the age of eleven, Yosip, you tried to get into "adults only" films with fanatical single-mindedness. Do you remember a film called "Mademoiselle Nitouche"? The lady in the ticket office said you’d have to ask the manager before she let you in. You pretended to go off to the manager, waited around the corner a minute or two, then marched back as proud as Punch. You were obviously lying, God only knows what you were banking on. The ticket lady picked up the phone and dialed the manager. Engaged. "You stay here", she said. "He'll be along in a minute". You stood there, shaking all over, and as soon as you reckoned she'd forgotten all about you, slipped into the foyer. The lady at the snack bar was clicking open lemonade bottles. Your teeth crunched on an ice cream wafer. From two square boxes covered with black material a woman's voice, soft as a bushed nylon blouse, sang "lilies of the valley, lilees of the valleeee". They opened the door into the auditorium. You weren't at all nervous. You were cool and calm. You found a seat in the second row, crossed your arms on your chest. Then the ticket lady and the manager appeared. They stood right on top of you and their eyes swept over the audience like searchlights. The audience was hot with indignation. The projectionist was ordered not to start the show until the culprit had been apprehended. Quite unexpectedly an old woman sitting next to you squawked: "But he's right here, can't you see him?!" You were escorted - the ticket lady in front, manager behind - down the long aisle which divided the auditorium in half, the grown-ups braying in triumph. You saw the contorted faces of the victors: Professor Galperin, Samshitov, the chairman of the town soviet. Come, come, you were a boy from a good family, the son of a much-respected doctor. And then you summoned all your strength, leapt right up to the ceiling and clung fast to a huge two-hundred-bulb chandelier. It jangled and swung. There was a rush for the door. Women screamed. A soldier, from the Caucasus by the look of him, violated a middle-aged lady on the floor right under the chandelier, from where everybody had to run to get out of the way. Nobody dared come near him - the chandelier was hanging by a thread. The lights went down, not in a slow fade, but all at once. The projectionist started up. Captions flickered. Not a whiff of Mademoiselle Nitouche. Bouncy music introduced some frenetic locally-produced comedy: a flock of rams meandered across lawns towards a mansion with classical columns: the rams knocked in the windows and doors and their hooves tapped on the tiled floors. For several days afterwards you went in fear that somebody would tell your father what had happened. But this time it all blew over. At the beginning of June you plucked up all your courage and went to the local repertory cinema. You deliberately chose this one, and not one in the centre of town, because the films changed every second day. "I like you, boy" the artist said. "I'll pay you twenty kopecks". Thus your fate was sealed. Three times a week now, on quiet violet evenings, you walked down the lanes, through yards and passages with a bundle of crude posters, still moist so they dirtied your hands, to replace the old ones which had outlived their brief two-week life-spans. Everything would have been wonderful were it not for the midgets. There were gypsies and dwarves, besides, in the town. All the dwarves worked as cobblers. They sat in their check aprons on little round stools, banging away with hefty hammers. It was difficult to tell one from the other and only one of them, Leonid, found fame and fortune. Year in, year out he was national featherest-weight wrestling champion. His lightning rushes for the legs were unbeatable. They wouldn't let Leonid compete at international level, though. The Federation considered his appearance would cast a shadow on the nation. Leonid was remarkable for his carefree, louche ways. He would insult women in the street, quite often forced them to have sex with him, and as a consequence enjoyed the respect of most of the men. The only person he paid the slightest attention to was his coach, Ivan Prokopovich. Sometimes Ivan Prokopovich would chide his favourite: "Come on now, Leonid, did you have your eyes closed or something? Never known you to show such terrible taste before!" The dwarves did not like children, but they never touched them. The midgets on the other hand, for all their refinement and cultivation, could not leave children alone. The midgets lived behind square wooden doors in semi-basement flats without windows in ordinary communal blocks. Usually they went for their walks after midnight. Creeping of an evening through quiet violet yards, through pends, up in black and white:
Starring Elizabeth Taylor
you hid from the midgets, and in every yard without fail there was always one window at which some pale youth was scraping away on a violin. So you walked, and it seemed that the moment you put in an appearance somewhere music began. You knew one of these myriad adolescents. He used to come and ask your sister to translate his letters to an uncle living in America into English. The youth kept pressing his uncle, his mother's brother, to send an invitation - the family wanted to join him in Brooklyn. Your sister frowned, but did the translation because he was a good looking boy. As a mark of his gratitude, he graciously suggested my sister list at the end of the letter the books she would like to receive from America. She made the list, checking in various encyclopaedias in case, God forbid, she spelt the name of her favourite poet or novelist wrong. As he said goodbye, he kissed her hand, but as soon as he got home he methodically erased the list of poets and novelists. This particular young man very nearly got what he wanted, but his mother went and spoilt it: she hanged herself. Though that's for "adults only". In the autumn the trees were short of breath. You took the little blue slip - "second row please" - and clutched it tight, you didn't want to hide it in your pocket, and in your other hand you held some coins, the change, fleeing from asthma the birds were flying away, they weren't flying it seemed but flowing away to the south, you walked away from the box office, round the side of the cinema building, a smell of galoshes, the parks were drunk on acrinine, nobody dared stop you with that little blue slip in your hand, in the foyer you flipped through the bound back numbers of newspapers, stitched so tight the pages were difficult to turn, to read, especially in the middle, quite impossible in fact, the orchestra musicians walked in, wan youths and paunchy men, "we begin our little concert with....", they played a variety number called "Joseph" the best. When they finished - "thank you for your kind attention" - the usherettes tugged back the flowing drapes from across the doorways. The drapes slid jangling along the rails, the crowd jostled through the openings, the musicians were laughing about something behind the velvet curtain, then hurried away to the snack bar. There was still a glimmer of light, even though a globe had already begun spinning on the screen, leaves slanted down, and in long-suffering Florida the elements were on the rampage yet again, webbed umbrellas flew across the darkened auditorium, galley slaves were hatching rebellion, but for some reason kept putting it off and putting it off. You went outside occasionally, your mum brought food to the cinema three times a day, they let her in without a ticket - the usherettes felt sorry for her - you gulped the soup down fast, licked the lid clean, noticed snow flakes on your mum's silver fox one day and realised winter had arrived. Your classmates came round, too, to tell you the news. Only your father could in no way come to terms with the changes in your life. Sometimes the soloist stayed behind with you at night. She was lonely, told you she was in love with you and did what she wanted with you, the galley slaves were hatching rebellion, the hurricane was still going strong in Florida, the musicians extended warmest comradely greetings to the lady cinemagoers on International Women's Day, the trees breathed deeply, your sister came in the end and tore you away bodily, by the roots, away from the cheviot nights, from satin female skin, from the sheet stretched tight across the stage, and threw you at the feet of a living person, at dawn, in the city of Paramaribo.
Dress off to the right! Number off into two groups!
Ah, Yosip, you're small, you press your back up against the kitchen door once a month and ask your sister to rest a hardback book on top of your head and score a mark with a pencil, so afterwards you can get out the soft rubbery-tasting tape to measure your height, fourth from the end, while that girl runs behind, lagging a few paces, the new one, from the music boarding school, her sports shirt's open further than anybody's and underneath it she's not like the others. The huge windows are shuttered, Ivan Prokopvich is in the middle of the hall: one-two, one-two. Press your hot cheek to the cool, smooth desk, it says to you: well, sonny. The one thing you mustn't do is look towards the front, see Veronika Petrovna come in, "Good afternoon, children!" - in English - she's naked, she sits down at the window, throws one naked leg over the other, her white breast buttoned on two beady mother-of-pearl nipples. "Who is absent?", again in English. Thank God, no chalk. Get your breath back first, wipe the perspiration from your forehead, then, skipping two steps at a time (it's so quiet), run down to the technician on the ground floor for a tetrahedron of chalk, down there in the lobby the bell is still rebounding from wall to wall like a ball kicked hard. You boot it in passing. You go in, face wet from the rain, puffy because it's morning, it's uncomfortable bending in an overcoat, you stuff your dirty galoshes - the lining in the heel and in the toe is dark, like crushed raspberry - into a bag and secure the neck of the bag with a rubber band. Side¬step round the edge of the hall – at the double! Hang your bag up, overcoat on top, it sticks out, the coat's pouched, a kangaroo. You have to breathe very deeply because Veronika Petrovna's bare, you don't have to move up to the front row and knock your pen on the floor - you can see the lot from where you are. On all the line a sudden vengeance waits. "May I come in?" In English. You come in, after six lessons your head aches you're so hungry, but you don't feel like eating. All the top of the form are in a huddle. They crack jokes - show they were picked for the team with good reason. They joke for a month, nobody can think up anything at all, except you, Yosip, it's the Oriental blood, the first in the class with a hint of a moustache, an inveterate prankster, you have to tell them, demonstrate and think up everything. Raise your right arm, bend it at the elbow, left hand behind the back. Change the position of the hands, march! "....when it was already getting light" - subordinate clause of time. The skiers came out onto the run. The World Schoolboy Championships. Starting with the third form, several of the girls were always being excused PE. Why? Who let them off? Shiny fastenings snapped shut, snow squeaked, Veronika Petrovna hovered in a white fur coat. It was hot, hot straightaway, not towards the middle. The competitors' welcome was best, they parachuted down onto the stage, were given 8 out of 10, one parachute failed to open, but the death of a team member didn't spoil the mood. Yosip, this girl, the new one, says she'll be my friend, what do I write to her? Ask her permission to kiss yourself, Samshitov. "Thank you, Yosip. Take your seat". Said in English. Fingers dry and white from the chalk; when you touch blotting paper with them there's a tickle in your throat. You put your hand on the knee next to yours, she's tiny, a square white bag with a silk red cross slung over her shoulder, her knee will be white now. Which way are you going? The other one. Just a little cloud out of the starting pistol. To begin with the skis stick to the snow. Can I walk with you? She says nothing for five minutes. Then says yes. Now you've come to some cinema posters. You read them, forget about everything else, she walks away - black schoolbag bumping against a tanned leg, September, the trees still rustling their syntax, in which outer darkness was the fate of this September determined?, she walks away, "Don Cesar de Bazan", o her tanned, "Missing Presumed Dead", scratched knee - forever, Yosip. You won in the panel game, though. You came up with better answers inside two minutes than they were able to with time to prepare in advance.
"Tell me, pray, the controversy is over policy?"
"Oh no, sir. This controversy's over Percy".
White fur coat thrown over a naked body, the grooved ski tracks of the Finn, Urkho Kuusinen, o so that's it, is it?: he's smeared a prohibited lubricant on his skis, we know, there was a Frenchman once, Ivan Podubny's rival, went and smeared a similar sort of grease all over his body so nobody could grab hold. What does Galperin think he's doing, he's umpiring the the international section? The main thing is, don't rush it. Wait till a tango; foxtrots or waltzes end in humiliation. You're approaching now, your hand with its pale inky bruises scarcely touches her back - a tap on the shoulder and you're broken up: why don't you break up some other couples, stupid? Up along the four-ply rope using your teeth, your nails. Stop cheating, Yosip, I did say without using your legs. The rope hung on you, the rope weeps, its forelock dangles on the floor, makes up to it. On all the line a sudden vengeance waits. Draw me an aspen, a branch, a leaf - it's not going to be marked. Draw me a leaf, a branch, an aspen with your own hand in my "Drawing Album" - please, before Samshitov touches you. Don't be afraid, the dentist's ready for you, it's your turn, all the rest got worn out with waiting, don't be afraid, sit in the hard chair and look out of the window, painted half way up, I run out into the yard, I'll jump up and down in front of the window, climb a tree, do all sorts of tricks so you won't notice the drill, or the forceps, either. "Finished.' Next please". Team one: down on your hands. Team two: take team one's legs. Go! You jump out of the bus onto the sparse dwarf grass, spades clatter. Are you tired? Drop the spade, it's the school garden, it's me. It's me digging round your apple trees and I'll stay and live here so I can paint the trunks with whitewash in the spring - it will course down the wrinkled bark onto the moist, lumpy soil, and I will run back and immediately see a completely brand-new white garden. "Give way! Give way!", you gasp. Everybody's laughing. The jury requests the captains to stand with their backs to the spectators. You're a well brought up lad, though, so you apologise to the fans for having to stand with your back to them. Everybody laughs. The jury'll have to give you a couple of points for manners. End of November, the holiday's over, the leaves are dispersing. But when, when will it be the turn of your bitter lips and hers, purposely wiped with nut skin?, pulls away her hand, disappears into her own doorway.
They're changing the guard at the dungeon door,
The darkness thickens, a clock strikes four.
Alice is marrying one of the guards,
"A warder's life is terrible hard", says Alice.
The jury frowns, the crowd laughs. Urkho Kuusinen suddenly turns and fells you with a blow of his two sticks held together. Who's been scattering red peas on the white snow? A white fur coat. You pull the broken ski off with wooden fingers and put on the spare; your steeply banked body is bent on winning. Ev'ry - ev'ry, morning - evening, with repeats such as these: ev'ry - ev'ry: ancient oaks crash, you stuff dirty galoshes into the bag and tighten the rubber band crossly round its neck. Make a note of the date.
Underneath: comprehension. When I read it a second time you can make notes. Now put your pens down and listen: "The skiers came out onto the track as it was growing light..." There won't be any comprehension.
There'll be verse.
You have to drag the lines out
The cinema's damp-stained walls
onto a snow white sheet of paper
Seats at the back of the stalls
write her name at the top, pass it on, and there goes your amphora floating from hand to hand
Of all the themes, the only worthwhile one
if they break it you'll kill yourself, with the help of the poison capsule in your lapel
Our lips, too, have touched upon.
She laughs with all the others, even the jury claps you. That's nothing. You're just showing them your homework. Up ahead of you Urkho Kuusinen falls, his legs wave stupidly in the air; without stopping, hardly even glancing in his direction, you throw him your last spare ski, seen only by the white fur coat, thrown open now from throat to navel. On all the line a sudden vengeance waits. Ivan Prokopovich takes his place in the centre of the hall. Team relay with a ball. Team one on my right, team two on my left. Any moment now. "Children, the lesson is over!" in English. You walk out of the building. In the far corner of the yard a bonfire of textbooks, exercise books and homework diaries blazes, surrounded by prancing first years. Their flushed, excited faces smudged with ash. Several of the teachers are lined up against the wall. The geography master with a globe under his arm, the maths teacher - black, fluffy birds fly out of his shaggy head. The pretty, tearful English teacher. Guardsmen from 2A stand opposite them, loading Kalashnikovs. In the middle of the yard a knotty gallows, still smelling of resin. Seven sixth formers from the security detachment lead the grammar master over to it. He is thin, erect, the wind ruffles his grey locks. A burst of fire. And another. The globe with newly torn islands on it bowls along the ground. Thick ocean water foams out. The technician, a short-sighted woman, comes out onto the porch and rings the bell. All the pupils make a dash for the door. The water keeps on splashing, splashing. Hordes of maddened rats rush through the deserted streets. Victory! Bury the dead tomorrow.
You're sixteen already, Yosip! The great singer comes back into the spotlight. Now he will tell you everything, teach you everything, vindicate you in everything you have ever done. His brilliantined hair so glossy, his smile so disingenuous. He lies, he lies. Which means he lied then. Tomorrow the whole town will know that the great singer spent the night with Komarova, and everybody knows she's a tart. She'll brag about it herself, how he took his wooden leg off and how pathetic he was in bed. He's taken something rather nasty away with him, and serves him right! - That's right isn't it, Yosip? Why are you silent, my boy? Where have you been to get so salty, the sea? Not a word in reply - scraps of words: "...ove ...ove ….ess”
Find further contributions from Igor Pomerantsev on Zeitzug