The Suspector

1.

My degeneracy is founded on sound principles

2.

I sometimes sleep

3.

The beat cop’s saintly muzzle
The bakery saleswoman’s sacred backside
An old woman has passed out
A crowd has gathered round

4.

The beer hall hasn’t enough room
for all the beer-lovers

5.

So that’s how it is
So that’s what it’s like
So that’s how it’s gonna be
So that’s it

6.

I live in the Izmailova Animal Park

7.

I am

8.

Uninterested
Unable
Unwilling

9.

I haven’t the strength
I haven’t the years
I have lost my fish
I have lost my hands
I have lost my feet

10.

People are canaries
I look them over
Before plucking a quill

11.

Winter—a constant odor
of burning paper

12.

It is just amazing
It is simply inexplicable

13.

Moscow floods all of Russia
She’s crammed into
             my apartment

14.

Mice
Little mice
Nice-mice

15.

Beetles
Little beetles
Beat-beetles

16.

Verpa* is always dying out

17.

The brave Russian aviator…

18.

Obviously I’m here
I’m present
I disappear
I.D.

19.

Sit with me
I’m with it
So what if
         not free

20.

I was born in
the year 1940
When I was born

.......................

21.

When I live...
When I lived…
When I lived on…

22.

What kind of name is
Ivanov
Petrov
Steblin-Kamensky

23.

Who’s there
Who’s there
Who is it
Who’s there

24.

Let’s try and remember

25.

I’m an Adonis
I’m no dog
I’m no rut in the ground

26.

What is this—jail
What is this—house
What is this—town
What is this—music

27.

Kiss me
don’t kiss me

28.

Bitter frost
Swinishness
RUBBISH

29.

INDIA
JAPAN
CHINA
INDONESIA
R-R-R-R

30.

Apathy—the greatest desire

31.

History—that’s a disease
Fauna—that’s a disease
Flora—that’s madness

32.

33.

O…!

34.

The filthy foul parka

35.

Tomorrow I’m leaving
once again departing
taking it all with me

36.

The flowers refleshed

37.

Entirely different

38.

The holy lunatics

39.

Vodka
Hard drugs
Starvation

40.

Happiness

41.

The street onto which
my windows look out

42.

Courses for public rally leaders

43.

The stop of the streetcar

44.

The mail collection box

45.

The fence

46.

Poems are cremated
on dinner plates
in soup bowls
on the floor

47.

I burn poems in the stairwell

48.

My friends know me
but I do not

49.

Who loves me

50.

Who wishes me ill

(December, 1965)

*Verpa:
1. word invented by Alexei Khvostenko (“Khvost”) to describe his literary credo;
2. name of the avant-garde Leningrad literary group founded by Khvost along with Henri Volohonski;
3. title of posthumous anthology of the collected literary works of Alexei Khvostenko.

Bios

Alexei Khvostenko

Alexei Khvostenko (1940-2004) deserves a larger, “literary” audience, but his “outsider” status is unlikely to be reversed posthumously and outside the Russian context, requiring an appreciation of him as a multi-artist (poet, singer/bard, collagist/sculptor) and an awareness of his immense popularity as a persona non grata during the exhilarating cultural moment of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the Soviet status quo was still in place but the liberating/decadent influences of the West had flooded in. Suspector (literally: “he who suspects”) is the title poem of Khvostenko’s first samizdat book (1965) at the height of the Khruschev “thaw” which was to be shortly followed by the suppression and stagnation of the Brezhnev years. These words were revolutionary, eliciting the disproportionate response from the authorities that made the Russian outsider bards Pop Icons. Khvost (his nickname means “Tail”) lived in Paris after his 1977 expulsion from the USSR.

Alex Cigale

Alex Cigale's poems recently appeared in The Cafe Review, Colorado Review, Global City Review, Green Mountains Review, The North American Review, Drunken Boat, Hanging Loose, McSweeney's, and Zoland Poetry, and are forthcoming in Eleven Eleven, Gargoyle, H_ngm_n, Many Mountains Moving, Redactions, St. Petersburg Review, Tar River Poetry, and 32 Poems. His translations from the Russian can be found in Crossing Centuries: The New Generation in Russian Poetry, and in The Manhattan Review, The St. Ann's Review, and Yellow Medicine Review.

PODOZRITEL' (The Suspector).  Copyright (c) Estate of Alexei Khvostenko, 1965.  English translation copyright (c) Alex Cigale, 2009.