Translated from Belarusian by Annie Rutherford
Poems come in different kinds.
They may be tall – or not really. Women – or not really.
Poems grow too but they do not need watered, they are not trees and you are not water.
For a poem to grow he or she needs to be rocked.
You may encounter a poem missing a leg or an arm, but there’s no need to be sad – they can regrow them like lizards who lose their tails and find them again.
Some poems though never grow wings or they grow them then lose them. Maybe their bodies lack calcium or something.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
First the poem must be caught.
Poems – they scatter, play hide and seek, disguise themselves as prose and all of that. It is therefore best to use a net.
They themselves will only cling onto you if you are running or driving somewhere, they will settle with the wind on hair, on cheeks, will rest there as if on a windscreen, then you can simply go ahead and write them down.
Capture when stationary is more difficult – for this a bait is required. Predatory poems will appreciate a drop of blood, for the more sweet-toothed a thin stream of honey will do, falling from the spoon back into the jar.
And then their corpses (if enough have been gathered and there isn’t space to store them) can be nailed to paper pages, published as a book and thus you will have your own cemetery.
There are, however, further approaches and more thorough classifications, according to which poems are people. Overly close contact may result in orgasmic or schizophrenic states.
a dog in a yellow jumper
waits for the train
the second day of advent
yet no suggestion of snow
the road still lined with
St John’s wort – bewildering
like the yellow trousers of the lad
who just now gives the impression of a son, not a lover
I try on different styles of life throughout the day
hold back from choosing any one
my heart transported by a lorry
with HERTZ inscribed in a yellow box
and the splinter of that extra letter sticks out of my heart
yellow as the armchair
in the hotel room
where only shadows dare to sit
while waiting for the bus
I warm the insides of my thighs
on a wooden bench
in summer you must be obsessive
and just have to go swimming
to tire yourself out
and realise there is no time
the sea can be replaced with a lake
the lake with a river
poplars with plane trees
the Belarusian town with a Swiss village
but you’re still sitting on a wooden bench
thinking of nothing
kids return from the beach
they don’t yet know how to read or write
they have to carry everything inside themselves
that’s how memory grows
they fidget, chatter, argue
the teacher says something
and straight away
they take the hand of whoever’s standing next to them
that simply, that naturally
it doesn’t matter who it is
a friend or enemy
they don’t exist yet
they’ll arrive later with the letters
but right now there’s only here and now
and the feel of a hand being put into yours
so as to be there
in case of danger