Letter from the Summer House


Dear ______,
The land's rusty again.
Acid rain: our blackened cucumber vines
Jut from the earth like scorched wire.
And I'm not sure about the orchard this year.
It needs a good cleaning up,
But I'm scared of those trees. When I walk
Among them, it feels like I'm going to step
On some carcass rotting in the tall grass,
Something crawling with worms, something smiling
Sickly in the hot sun.
And I get nervous over the sounds:
The day before yesterday, in the thicket, meowing,
The monotonous creaking of a tree,
The suppressed cackling of geese–all constantly
Straining for the same note. Do you remember
The dry elm, the one lightning turned
Into a giant charred bone last summer?
Sometimes I think it lords
Over the whole garden, infecting everything with rabid madness.
How do mad trees act?
Maybe they run amok like derailed streetcars. Anyway,
I keep an axe by the bed, just in case.
At least the butterflies are mating: we'll have
Caterpillars soon. Oh yes, the neighbor's daughter
Gave birth–a boy, a bit overdue. He had hair and teeth
Already, and could be a mutant,
Because yesterday, only nine days old, he shouted,
"Turn off the sky!", and hasn't said a word since.
Otherwise, he's a healthy baby.
So, there it is. If you can get away
For the weekend, bring me something to read,
Preferably in the language I don't know.
The ones I call mine are exhausted.

Kisses, love, O.


                         Ukrainian; trans. Douglas Smith


Oksana Zabuzhko, Ukrainian, trans. Douglas Smith.