Still Life with Potato Field

by Anzhelina Polonskaya

Tell me, why is there war
if not to leave buckles in lumps of clay ?
The potato field sleeps.  At night you can’t imagine
who’ll be lying down in the blue beet tops by morning.

A cold year.  The train cars smell
of rubber boots, bodies, and exhalation.
A distant port wanders with ships
and in the crowd it’s easy to seem a refugee.

Time marches on.  The clockface strides
with metal arrows, like a crane in the lagoon.
The bazaars are filled with traders,
while cigarette smoke reddens the moon like a sabre.

The house is like a white fish diving into the mist.
It’s been a long time since there was light in the window.
At the edge of the field a female figure freezes,
hiding potatoes in the folds of her skirt.

In the leaden air, where there’s no place for lungs
you hear only the clang of a gate’s hasp.
For an instant the face looks out into the night,
then hides its grief behind sticky fingers.

Translated by Andrew Wachtel.