The Letter. It’s Just
For A.Selivanov
By Irina Mashinski

…a note
from here which I can define as here
to dear you there, in the land of names.

So, here in the hills
under my feet
a rapid river –
as if  alive –
eats gravel,
leaves and twigs,
avoids all common places,
– can you believe it?  –
name names
say, freedom.
What’s freedom? you asked
(being, I guess,  sarcastic).
– A lot of empty space,
not masked by names
or gender,  like verbs in local  language.

Only air’s above me –

and if there is a border –
it’s  this transparent, braided, quick
between that grass
and more grass to the west.

Translated from Russian by the author


Бежит речка, как живая,
избегая общих мест,
Господа не называя,
крутит лист и камни ест.

Все, что знаем о свободе, –
из чужого словаря.
Ты скажи хоть о погоде,
но с другим не говоря.

Что – свобода? Ну свобода.
Пустота со всех сторон.
Мой глагол – другого рода,
оттого протяжней он.

(К этой строчке примечанье –
на окраине листа:
чем длиннее окончанье,
тем пустыннее места.)

Друг далекий, Селиванский!
Только воздух надо мной.
Слева берег пенсильванский,
справа берег – как родной.

Для того нужна граница,
для того я тут стою.
Вот летит большая птица,
я ее не узнаю.

Irina Mashinski is a bilingual poet and translator, the author of seven books of poetry, most recently, Volk [Wolf] (NLO: Moscow, 2009). Her work has been or will shortly be published in Poetry International, Fulcrum, The Anthology of Contemporary Russian Women Poets, Stranger at Home, American Poetry with an Accent, The London Magazine, The Prague RevueAfter The FallThe Moon City Review,  and other magazines and anthologies. She is the winner of several Russian literary awards, including the first prizes at the Russian America  (2001),  Maximilian Voloshin (2003), and other poetry contests, and is  the co-founder and co-editor (with Oleg Woolf) of the Cardinal Points literary journal, published in the US in English  and in Russian and serves on the editorial board for the NYC based translation project, Ars-Interpres.  She graduated from Lomonosov Moscow StateUniversity where she studied Physical Geography and Paleoclimatology at the M.S. and Ph.D. levels and holds an M.F.A in Poetry from New England College.