Poetry by Alexander Kabanov


To Volodya Tkachenko


The day was buzzing, missing honeycombs,
and the linen hang on the ropes,
like notes in a classical score,
guess: was it Bach or underpants?

The air was handsome, advanced,
but indescribable yet,
it smelled like dog shit and fake IDs,
and the apple of sin that could rejuvenate…

Shaking off ash of an accent,
I fell asleep in a bower by the creek,
I saw my motherland alive in a dream,
a free, no one’s land.

Autumn brought sunflowers that put
jeans skies with fringes on,
nowadays scumbags become poets
and never come back home.



*     *     *


The sun slides down Rostov on a screeching tricycle, and forever
the reflections of crosses move like a spoon-bait in the river,
a sunset bell is chilled with toll over the horizon’s fishing line,
here the Russian God took the bait, and the clouds came back from the front line.

We’ll bring him home and let him swim in our bathtub,
Well, my lord, wash yourself in the promised water, rub,
the net cuts the scales, and а hundred-jaw round muzzle eats up
the soul–aren’t you scared, my god, to hang there between smelt and tittlebat?

To hang two meters above the ground where nettle blooms down there,
but there is no beer in the pub, and one is left just to believe in beer.



*     *     *


I take a placebo of the prayer
with the taste of rabindranath cahors,
finally, mushroom razors
pelt looking for a newly disc
vered throat.

I drive a two-pail coupe sedan, a convertible,
I am ill-tempered for that matter,
which is quite understandable,
taking into account current patterns.

Feathered carcasses sing
the cover chanson from Zita and Gita
and evil airbag pillows cling
stuffed with angels’ feathers in my two-seater.

The fingers smell of Sistine Chapel,
of a fresh cut finger and contagious doom
in a white car, as white as a sample,
indistinguishable from a black or red one.


*     *     *


*Theodolite sensed me with its tongue
under the skies of Barcelona,
the day grew as a draft
and the clones were waking up.

From dusty canvasses and arras
they came out in an anxious doubt:
why do you, Martian son of a bitch,
shake your tripod?

Theodolite is looking up to
gilding sprayed with an enema
and sees a shrimp thursday
crawling into a bologna saturday.

If tapas is a sort of canapé
in a flaky body under one shirt,
we, pierced with a plastic spade,
will meet in a store-room amidst a crowd,

and a bribed memory will help us pass
smuggled grain of sense through customs:
red wine can do anything, but alas
it can’t turn white.



Alexander Kabanov

Alexander Kabanov was born in 1968 in Kherson, Ukraine and resides now in Kyiv. A 1992 graduate of the School of Journalism of Kyiv State University and the author of nine books of poetry and numerous publications in major Russian literary journals, Kabanov is said to be one of the leading poets of his generation. He has been awarded a number of prestigious literary prizes, among them the Russian Prize, International Voloshin Prize, Anthologia Prize, and the Novy Mir Literary Magazine Award for the best poetry publication of the year. His poems have been translated into German, English, Dutch, Ukrainian, Kazakh, and other languages. Since 2005, Kabanov has been the chief editor of the journal of contemporary culture SHO ("WHAT") and coordinator of the International poetry festival Kyivsky Lavry (Kyiv Laurels).

Ian Probstein

Ian Probstein is assistant professor of English at Touro College, New York and a bilingual English-Russian poet and translator of poetry. He's published seven books of poetry in Russian and one in English, and more than a dozen of books of translation. Additionally, he's compiled and/or edited more than 20 books and anthologies of poetry in translation. In all, Probstein has more than 200 publications in several languages (translated poetry from English, Spanish, Italian, and Polish into Russian and from Russian into English). Complete Poems and Selected Cantos of Ezra Pound in Russian Translation: A Bilingual Edition (St. Petersburg: Vladimir Dahl, 2003), which he compiled, edited, commented, and of which he is one of the major translators, was rated the best book of 2003 in Translation and Poetry by critics in Russia. Probstein edited, co-translated, and authored the introduction and commentary for the Russian edition of Collected Poems of T.S. Eliot (Moscow: AST, 2013).

Copyright (c) Alexander Kabanov, 2013. English translation copyright (c) Ian Probstein, 2014.