Two Poems by Yuli Gugolev

To A. Turkin

You and I arriving home from work
will dull the needle and lie down,
turn into an airplane that’s flying
though its fuselage is on fire.

The plane is heading for the wetlands,
its fuselage dissolves in water,
and it soon becomes apparent
something’s missing, something’s wrong here.

It’s not something, rather someone,
someone’s missing for some reason:
in the plane there is no pilot
and the parachute is absent.

The pilot’s strung out like a puppet,
kicking. His feet are in the clouds.
His right eye has not been gouged out,
his left eye can be seen winking.

He looks upon us in half-profile,
sees everything, say for example,
how we, having come home from work,
acquired the bodies of high flyers.

He’s able to distinguish patches:
there’s the earth and there the water.
It's of paramount importance
to find mooring, to land safely.

But our turn has not arrived yet,
this is not the end of our journey,
once again the heavenly coachman
misses with his step the stirrup.

Above us, he does a fly-by
in the likeness of the pilot–
so half of our lives have fluttered,
we listening with one ear only

to what the swamp’s body utters.


From the primal outpouring,
from the spiritual stirring,
a bark pitches, tosses, rolling
in the slow waves of oblivion.

We are carried by it to a place
where the undifferentiated days
are heaped upon the waters.  The
water stares from under its forehead

at the faces erased by an oar,
at the foliage-like fish exhalation.
A catfish in lunar illumination
navigates through our contours,

through our embraces, lips, shoulders,
and eye lashes dissolved in the liquid,
where your shadow still smolders
in its mother-of-pearl nudity.

But within this somatic practice
the smelted metal seams crackle,
the body’s sprouts already rattle
above the rustle of toad foliage.

Our breathing becomes erratic
and dreams flicker as, secretly,
as by the wind frightened, our souls
embrace, entangled beneath the ceiling.


Yuli Gugolev

Yuli Gugolev was born in Moscow in 1964. He is a translator and the author of two books of poetry: Polnoe: Sobranie sochineniy (Complete: Collected Works; Moscow: OGI, 2000), and Komandirovochnye predpisaniya (Official Instructions; Moscow: Novoe izdatelstvo, 2006), which won the Moscow Count prize for 2007. In 2008, Gugolev was one of three poets invited to give a series of bilingual readings around the United States sponsored by the NEA and the Poetry Foundation in conjunction with the release of Contemporary Russian Poetry: An Anthology from Dalkey Archives. He works in the regional division of the International Commission of the Red Cross in the Russian Federation.

Alex Cigale

Alex Cigale's poems recently appeared in The Café Review, Colorado Review, Global City Review, Green Mountains Review, The North American Review, Gargoyle, Tar River Poetry, 32 Poems, and Zoland Poetry, and online in Contrary, Drunken Boat, H_ngm_n, and McSweeney's. He has poems forthcoming in Many Mountains Moving, Redactions, and St. Petersburg Review. His other translations can be found in Crossing Centuries: the New Generation in Russian Poetry, The Manhattan Review, The St. Ann's Review, and Yellow Medicine Review, online in Danse Macabre, and forthcoming in OffCourse, Ekleksographia, Sous Rature, Crab Creek Review, and Modern Poetry in Translation. He was born in Chernovsty, Ukraine, lives in New York City, and may be reached at [email protected].

Copyright (c) Yuli Gugolev, 2000. English translation copyright (c) Alex Cigale, 2009.