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Translations


The giant jellyfish washed back and forth along the coast

Sleeping inside it

Hell made a pass at me

So that I strove to push myself over


One contradiction at a time

Until a house appeared

Where people walked up and down the soft stairs

Looking for something interesting


“Life,” the boy said, “Is the act of evading boredom at the expense of sanity.”


My children somniloquize in their feather beds

Their grandmother who came from Moscow

Going east

Past the monolithic waters of Baikal, from Shanghai into the Pacific

The San Francisco house full of leather-bound books on botany


Today

I wait at the café

With my books, music, and clothes




Anatomy of Desire


Since I can no longer talk to you 

Because I am dead or you are dead 

Or the world has accidentally ended 

Or you’re simply tired of my whining 

Or paper mâché demons have tipped over the inkwell

Or just found something more interesting to do 

I am still in love with you 

 

No longer desperately though

Not the high fusion heat of a new star 

Still coalescing its acolytes of bodies 

But that of an old universe still unsure 

Of its particular amplituhedron 

With a cat on its lap 

 

There are so many ships sailing and so much singing 

So many fish in the sea, well perhaps not our sea

Let’s not talk about our sea—it’s too depressing 

All I want is what I don’t know I want 

Maybe just to hear how your day went 

Or to laugh at your pictograms 

Relayed across washed out satellites

 

I am a prince you know and a saint 

But who wants to be a martyr?

When Jesus said something about the children

I think he was speaking of us

But I can’t remember what it was




Sestina 33


I found a star map grandmother had drawn

When living in Crimea by the sea.

She’d sketched the constellations she had seen

And written quotes from poets who had mostly dreamed

In prophecies of worlds that never were quite real

Like memories of future pasts inside her hourglass.


I found her photo album, which like an hourglass

Showed time in grains of black and white—drawing

The girl from cradle to 3rd grade to the real

Woman standing in a wave, pointing a spyglass at the sea,

Holding some ancient shell, wondering what dreams

These shores had made the ancients see.


What was she like? What had she seen

When she was thirty-three, the hourglass

Still brimming with some fifty years of dreams

In which a woman clothed in black draws

Bees who sway in wind like waves at sea.

Her friends call back. In 1949, her real


Age is barely eighteen. Her father made a real

Recovery. The country would not disappear. We saw

The rockets fall back into the Baltic Sea.

The future was so greedily aware—lives fell inside the hourglass. 

But it’s all over now. The world would let her draw

The deep equations of her dreams. 


She holds the daughter of her daughter’s dreams.

A Soviet papoose swaddled in a blanket of real

Merino wool. It was December, the year was drawing

To a close. The family would gather round to see

The child laid by the shabby little tree. The hourglass?

We threw in the sea.


The gibbous moon reflected in the sea.

Snow fell over the roofs under which children dreamed

Of mirrors folding back onto themselves. The hourglass

Now lain on its side as her white soul came to you in real

Life. The many pictures you have yet to draw

Will someday lay like these for everyone to see.


If time is like a sea in which we make our dreams

And every hourglass marks both sides of the real

Then when we draw our final breathe, what new things will be seen?




Byron at 36


I was going to write you a procedural sestina, or rather it writes

Itself: Match the addressee’s initials to books in the Library of Congress; count the letters

In the name; draw a tarot card; multiply the card number by the name number.

Finally, you write down the six words that describe the card. 

Andre Golub (AG): Dictionaries: V Cups: regret, failure, setback, forgiveness, hope, home.

I took pictures of the 50th page of six amusing dictionaries; one was about aliens.


I thought your sestina would be fun. The page about aliens

Would have made Luis Buñuel twirl his moustache. He could have written

It himself. The moustache, now, reminds me of the plumber who used to fix our home.

Instead, I’ll write you this sestina, which mom will mail with your birthday letter.

Perhaps it’s for the best, the five of cups can be a miserable card.

Although, if you look closely, you can see a number


Of good things. The sad man’s days are by no means numbered.

His cloak is new. There is a bridge over the river to a nice house. His sense of alienation

Is for the most part just self-pity. Life’s dealt him a troika of bad cards,

But it takes five to make a hand—Don’t fold just yet. Look up and see the writing

All around—your lover’s footsteps in the sand, the fire in the sky, these natural letters

Write The Earth—the novel, beautiful and strange, we all call home.


How quaint and grand, to see eternity in sand and God in a wildflower. Meanwhile, this home

Has flooded once again—the shut-off valve has burst. The meter spins. The gallons number

In the hundreds. My books are wet. I dig a hole in hard November mud, as mother reads a letter

From the bank—“thank you,” it says, “but you still owe us more.” Twilight. Venus’s alien

Light, an omen from a world that scorched itself, of which Gottlob Frege liked to write.

O Morning Star! O Evening Star! Whatever star you like. It’s all the same old card.


The winter sky is marred… but I digress. This poem is your birthday card

That mom will send with a Peruvian hat and other trinkets from the home.

I should be asking of your work, your pretty wife, and if you still want me to write

That grant proposal for your robot bear who speaks in a number

Of rare languages. Sometimes I dream of the bear descending from an alien

Ship—a furry outstretched paw proffering quicksilver shapes and letters


From afar. What marvels! How divine! “No.” The bear says, “It’s a cease and desist letter.”

Only an animatronic space bear can save us now—hand us the intergalactic red card.

But I digress… let’s leave this as a practice test. Turn now to an Italian beach, resident aliens

Playing in the sand, a pail of jellyfish and crabs, a path, a lovely one room home,

A one-eyed cat, a fall, a doctor, and a scar, the numbers

Of the radio in the little car, the copper green of roofs, the names we never learned write.


At 36, Lord Byron wrote something about wilted leaves in a letter

To a friend. A number of days later, the prophetic poet drew a fatal card.

A super-silly man, he should have stayed at home. Alas, he was abducted by aliens.

Triin Paja

UC Davis professor of herpetology, Peter Golub, was last seen on February 16 at the Naval Clinical Hospital in Vladivostok after testing positive for coronavirus during a routine medical exam at Vladivostok International Airport. Golub had been studying the impact of chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) on amphibian populations on the Amur River, which runs along the Northeast Sino-Russian border. After spending three days in quarantine, Golub allegedly escaped the hospital with Polina Ilyina after hacking the hospital's security system and impersonating hospital staff. At present, both Peter Golub and Plina Ilyina are on Interpol's wanted list. A reward has been announced for any information relating to their location. 

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