To read / 10 November 2023

Cargo 25


Don’t take it too personally,
just don’t.
A little girl, her face dirty like an apple,
is picking her nose.
The other one, freckled, as dreamy as a cloud,
with a golden foam of hair, is chewing a coloured pencil.
Her mouth is already blue,
or is it the shadow of a falling bomb
invented by the human mind and dropped by man?
The two flowers of life. Don’t say their names aloud,
this way it would help them enter your heart
and shred it to pieces.

Numbers sound better than names.
If a dead adult is Cargo 200, then a child
should be a little Cargo 25 – one eighth of it.
You are thinking like a logical maniac.
But your heart resists it, it thrashes around in pain, it kicks,
it searches a way out, a way in,
it’s like a viper that lost its way in an empty blanket cover.
Broken trellis, burnt grape vines.
Don’t take it personally,
just don’t.
The heart is an electricity locker.
‘Danger! Keep away!’ is written on it. Keep away from love.
Every number of people killed by bombs 4 17 23 50
is compressed ashes, a burnt fruit with seeds,
with lives of adults and kids.
With their sorrows, smiles, plans, dreams.
Those worlds are wasted.
But the numbers are soothing.
They are rabbits hypnotizing a snake:
Don’t cry, snake, don’t cry.
The more numbers we have, the less sorrow is left.
Numbers are grey holes that suck in the residual human light.
There were two girls. Just 2. No, there weren’t.
Ira, a primary school teacher
hovers over the burnt neighbourhood
like a dandelion, like lightning,
looking for her pupils.
Is everyone alive? Who is absent?
A rollcall in alphabetical order.
But there are no letters anymore,
just numbers, numbers.

Don’t take it too personally,
they are not yours.
You don’t have a giraffe’s heart,
which is so strong that can pump blood
to the height of a four-story building.
The heart resists – let them in.
But the mind refuses to believe and accept.
Here’s a colouring book.
This hippo was partly coloured in blue. Why blue?
Who ever heard of blue hippos?

The real pain will come later:
a winged copper horseman,
resembling a big wasp.
It is too slow to outrun the rocket,
but it can outrun you,
weeks or months later, and look into your eyes.
A wasps’ nest above your door.
Take a stepladder and bash you head against it,
draw blood,
gnaw on it with your teeth.
Thrust your face into the humming jet of the
searing, liberating pain.
A threatening buzz, hundreds of stingers.
But you imbibe, with your whole heart and memory,
what you see, what you feel.
As if your life and the conscience of the Universe,
which is still in the bud stage,
depends on it.
The real pain will come later,
with a delay, like the sound of a gunshot,
the sound of remorse and separation.

A threatening, viscous buzz, hundreds of stingers,
oh, my sky made of wasps,
it follows me.
I’m in no hurry, I’ll wait for you, Lily and Yana,
I’m here, waiting for you.
My heart is open.

We’ll have sweets and juice.
We’ll play around.
We’ll finish colouring the hippo in blue.
In blue and yellow.

Translated by Sergey Gerasimov


Dmitry Blizniuk

Dmitry Blizniuk is a poet from Ukraine. His most recent poems have appeared in Rattle, The Nation, The London MagazinePleiades, Another Chicago Magazine, Eurolitkrant, Poet Lore, NDQ, The Pinch, New Mexico Review, The Ilanot Review, National Translation Month and many others. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he is also the author of The Red Fоrest (Fowlpox Press, 2018). His poems have been awarded RHINO 2022 Translation Prize. He lives in Kharkov, Ukraine.


You can find more about the poet on the Poets & Writers Directory.


Photo by Tatiana Blizniuk