New Series No. 20 - 2002
In the Botkin Hospital
As though good Doctor Botkin in his wisdom
had turned his mind to me well in advance,
giving his knife, in time, to Soldatyonkov,
I opened life’s door again and stumbled out.
My brain sped off into receding twilight –
an ark sealed snug and tightly, hooped and braced,
it was restored by Soldatyonkov’s genius
into its proper, from the other, place.
He’s still the same: no time for shows of honour,
for bowing and for scraping, even praise –
in any case, concern for us poor sufferers
is quite enough to keep a soul sustained.
But can you tell? I was in mines of nothing –
for seven days the doctors sank me deep:
there’s no-one there. Bulát, I didn’t see you,
or maybe was forced to silence by decree.
Placid machines performed a clerkly function –
the pulses leapt and twittered on the screen
transcribing the twin hillocks, the two humplets
of my rearing, bucking, dromedary brain.
This crown of flesh, this mystery of juncture,
lives close beside, but sealed off from my life:
like sharing a vestibule, perhaps, with some shy scholar,
who greets you as you pass, but with dropped eyes.
So how to read its thrust inside my temples?
A survey? an attempt to make its peace?
Grounding in inner space is quite unwelcome:
only the higher places bring release.
We’re not well-matched. Its job, I think, is torture:
teaching one’s skull to list among the waves
of thought. That’s right. The outer coasts of knowledge
are banned to knowledge – why, we cannot say.
The brain’s not good at contemplating brain-power,
and leaving the bed one’s made and where one lies
is far too much. I’d rather walk on point-shoes
or fish for pike in the canals on Mars.
One’s lips spend all their time yawning or eating
but cannot speak – they seem to wear a gag.
The moment of transcendence can’t be uttered
or compassed: it must simply be endured.
The ward – my world – is wide and bleached to whiteness:
My head is dark and barren as a moor.
To set down ‘ . . . doesn’t seem so bright’ in writing
requires a miracle of one’s brain-power.
My brain’s not there. Some maleficent witches
have withered all cognition on the stem.
But now I hear: just try and write more simply,
and let your mind begin to come to terms.
Translated by Catriona Kelly
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
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- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
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- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The