Sunday, May 31, 2009

Irina Mashinski on Boris Pasternak & Marina Tsvetaeva

May 29th

Tomorrow Pasternak dies
in Peredelkino, where on his grave
we spent our youth
reciting "August,"
surrounded by quiet men in dark suits ––
they almost liked the lines.

Tomorrow is the day, the 30th. And three months from tomorrow
Tsvetaeva will hang herself
in a Tatar town on the black Kahma river
Kahma - a tribute to the fuller, solemn
Volga, which rolls her waters south farther from the yoke.
the town with a hook-like name: Elahbuga

A tributary to the yet unknown,
if only I could give her all my blood
to fill those cobalt rubble veins of a laborer!
If only - all the pine tree air to fill his tormented lungs -
I, illegitimate offspring,
looking for the two of you

on every bank
of each big frozen river
where boats are stuck in hardened hummocks.

Born in Moscow, Irina Mashinski (Mashinskaia) immigrated to the U.S. in 1991. A bilingual poet and translator, Mashinski is the author of six books of poetry and a winner of several prestigious Russian national literary awards. Her poetry has been translated into Serbian, Italian, English, and French and is regularly featured in most of the leading literary periodicals and anthologies in Russia and abroad. Her new Russian books of poems, Volk (Wolf) and Peschanik, (Sandstone, Selected Poems ) are scheduled to come out in the summer and fall of 2008 in New York and Moscow. Ms. Mashinski is a co-editor-in-chief of the Storony Sveta (Cardinal Points) major literary magazine published in the US. She graduated from Moscow University magna cum laude and is a current graduate of the MFA in Poetics at New England College. In the US, she has taught Mathematics, Science, Meteorology, and Russian History in high schools and colleges of New York and New Jersey.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Lilac Thief

OK, it's that time of year and I'm a sucker for lilacs. I steal them by the armfuls past midnight or in the hours just before dawn when there's no one else around. The heirloom bushes at Memorial Park appear diseased this year. Here's a poem I wrote about them a few years ago at the height of my prowling for lilacs on other peoples' property or in abandoned places.

The Lilac Thief

This year I looked for lilacs
off the beaten track
in places no longer tended –

A different kind of boundary,
long rows where once houses stood,
lots now empty.

I love the deeper purple of old bushes,
their crushed bloomets falling into my hand
taken from gnarled bark bearing heavy plumage.

I am the local lilac thief,
that one who stops to follow
the scent of unseen blossoms.

Jacqueline Gens