Poetry by Gila Loran

(Poems from the late 1990s-early 2000s)

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I will never be
that sparkling boy
who on a bright spring morning
right after the May holidays
in the locked classroom
the English teacher took into her mouth

traces of cherry lipstick on my swim trunks
mama didn’t notice in the wash
she hasn’t really noticed much
ever since my aunt left
for America—no not for that one, the other one
in short: far, far away
never to return

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Don’t kiss me in this cold hallway
A dog barks, a door slams shut with the breeze
I’d rather go to Borya’s place
On the Ponds. We’ll get drunk on vodka out of heartache
Don’t kiss me–because, see, I don’t believe

It will be quiet and warm in the green kitchen
There will be vodka on the table, if it’s not all gone
We’ll leave from there–the front door will bang shut
The bulb over our heads will be snuffed
The falling leaves will envelop us by dawn

. . . If you want, we might be able to go to the village to see Lora
Or better yet, we could go out to the dacha to see Lera
There we will meet the lavender daybreak
Until you go away to your boy in the peacoat
The color of the sea. In this dark hallway
Don’t kiss me, because I just don’t believe

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*******A.T.

It all began with a stifling headache
They blindly touched my body
They bent down to stand the bottle on the floor
Their vertebrae showed through their blue t-shirt
Their gaze pierced me like a fork
Or maybe more like a needle
It all began in the shower
They said listen
They would like to fuck that sweet soul
In the mouth
I said, give it a try I don’t mind

They ripped it open They sewed it up
They took off

An hour in a cold car like in a bad melodrama don’t read me the riot act
it’s plain as can be well you yourself know we’re in the same situation
what the hell am I sitting around here for so this means you don’t want to
I can’t
Okay, fine

At some point they’ll get fed up with the other girls
They’ll turn up in my dream to take a stroll out of boredom
To drink some beer on a little bench
Then, please, put on your gloves
It’s painful for me to see your hands
They are too beautiful

*

[Translator’s Note: Grammatically, the Russian language indicates gender in the singular, but not the plural. So it’s not possible to use the past tense when speaking to or about someone using the informal, singular “you” (ty) without indicating the gender of that person. However, the formal, plural “you” (vy) does not automatically reveal grammatical gender, so Zelenina uses it here to let the gender of the poem’s addressee remain unspecified. This is much like the English language convention of using “they” as a singular pronoun in the place of “he” or “she” in order to refer to a person who does not identify as strictly male or female. – D. L.]

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I will undress you
the ribbed lilac cloth
straining
the sky-blue veins on your pale chest

You’re one of the few girls who . . .
You’ll remain the only girl who’d—

*

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With experienced hands
You will do everything just right
Only don’t click-clack with your heels:
Your heels
Are too high
For our promenade
Through our lily-of-the-valley garden

Embrace me. For that
I will treat you to a cigarette,
All right

We are like cousins, boy and girl
And now you seem happy to see me
For your words are strangely fluid
But I can’t hold you right now:
My cuffs are too long
For our masquerade

Call me. Maybe I love you, yeah?

Bios

Gila Loran

Gila Loran (Galina Zelenina) is a native Muscovite. She has published a prose collection, Freakipedia, or the Adventures of a Shard (Frikipedia, ili Pokhozhdenia oskolka, 2010), and three poetry collections: W (Zh, 2000), Voilà: A Genre Anthology (Voilà: Antologia zhanra, 2004), and A Cow Ate [the First Word] ([Pervoe slovo] syela korova, 2008). Zelenina is a historian and the author of From Judas’s Scepter to Fool’s Staff: Jews in the Medieval Spanish Court (Ot skipetra Iudy k zhezly shuta: prodvornye yevrei v srednevekovoy Ispanii, 2007), Judaism Two: Faces of the Renaissance (Iudaika dva: renessans v litsakh, 2015), and The Fiery Foe of the Marranos: Life and Death Under the Surveillance of the Inquisition (Ognennyy vrag marranov: zhizn i smert pod nadzorom inkvizitsii, 2018). She was editor and translator at the Gesharim/Cultural Bridges (Mosty kultury/Gesharim) publishing house and editor-in-chief of the website Booknik. She has also taught at Moscow State University, the Higher School of Economics, and the Russian State University of the Humanities (RSUH). Currently, Zelenina is Associate Professor in RSUH’s Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies and a Research Fellow of the Humboldt Foundation.

Anonymous

Copyright (c) Galina Zelenina.