The Avenues


My mother says we acted out the funeral of Robert Kennedy,

And walked serenely around the corpse.


On Sundays while I am still in bed 

And my phone rings with my mother at church


You clean your house

And the cat hides under the covers.


Cleaning my house, I came upon an old manila folder

With pressed flowers, your photo, and two pieces of paper.


One read: “Games in the trash” and “Sandwich woman”

Notes for a poem I’ve forgotten to imagine.


Outside the sprinklers make evening puddles

And a tree of birds is a choir for the early summer.


The black and white photograph shows you looking

Out to a parking lot with a Chevy Caprice;


Your head turned away from the camera

Waiting for the taxi, which we missed.


We missed the flight as well and your mother distrusts us now,

But does that mean we are untrustworthy?

My Alice


A dozen merchants stand at the base of a mountain

Swinging empty scales over their heads like ancient weapons

I admire their work

Though I do not know it

Just as admiring you



The cat is under the glass table

And a large rat is quietly writing an essay on contemporary poetry

Like him I am an admirer

Our ears ring

We are growing fat in our dens


You are on the edge of the bed

Trying to wake up

You are on the edge of the bed

Going to sleep

You are waiting at the edge of the bed

Like a princess waiting at the edge of the bed


It is the day after Thanksgiving

The clinking jars slander the leftovers

The clinking jars allay as they slander

The fire and whiskey and pies from last night

Still linger somewhere inside us

And in this stupor of overeating and too much drink

I admire you

I put a tiny torch under your hair

Poof and you disappear


At the table where I am asked to say grace

Everyone seems satisfied

The professor speaks to me at length about the president

His wife finds me charming

They invite me to their house

I am suddenly very lonely

I sit at the edge of Nina’s bed

Thinking of you

While everyone plays a board game

The answer always seems to be from a movie I’ve never seen


 My Alice walks in through the window

A pale apparition in the darkness

I offer a slice of wedding cake

—I know, she says

Let’s pretend we are not in the middle of the woods.



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 talk about sleep

And their grandmother who came from Moscow

Going east

Past the monolithic waters of Baikal and the Pacific

The San Francisco house full of leather bound books on botany



I wait at the café

With my books, music, and clothes



Of course there should also be a lake—blue and crystalline 

The surface not reflecting the sun but absorbing it 

Pulling it into the cold water  

The heat stored in a rare mineral at the bottom


Of course not everyone can afford a house on its shores  

And those who do own the giant houses rarely use them 

Preferring rather to spend their time in the city flats 

Where they throw long roof parties with Brazilian music 


When you stand there 

Changing your mind or not changing it 

Making it up for the first time with a glass in your hand
Staring into the eyes of a tall writer


You are there at the bottom not waiting exactly

Although those who saw it would have no other word to describe it

She is waiting for her love

Perhaps she is waiting for her love


Standing in the room with your sister

Who you haven’t seen in a long time

She is holding a glass of wine

Your friends kiss on the couch


In the parking lot

You help an old man place bundles of fire wood into his Pontiac

Planes streak the cold blue sky

A white seine that catches nothing

Peter Golub is a Moscow born poet and translator. He has published original work and translations in various journals, including ARC Poetry, Cimarron, and World Literature Today. In 2008 he edited an anthology of contemporary Russian poetry, which was published by Jacket Magazine. In 2007 a bilingual edition of his poems, My Imagined Funeral, was published by Argo-Risk Press in Moscow, Russia. He is currently the translation editor for the St. Petersburg Review, and is pursuing his PhD at Columbia University. He is the recipient of a PEN Translation Grant for a collection of flash fiction by Linor Goralik and a BILTC Fellowship for the poems of Anrei Sen-Senkov (Zephyr Press).