Blow winds. A crowd of unknown ghosts.
I sing heartbroken, alone and old, I sing
To myself. The rags of fog hang
In the twilight. A flurry of snow
The wind whistles. My glass of wine
Is gone, the bottle empty.
The fire dwindles in the hearth.
Whoever speaks, speaks in a whisper.
I think about how these letters mean nothing.

At night special ops
Were sometimes seen
Crossing the transparent border
Dispersing into our darkness

How will we know them, friend?
They look just like us

We too cross the border
Onto the other bank
Of the boundary river

Where a campfire burns a light through the fog
Where an open wound bleeds out bull’s blood
To warm our lips,
Speech, untying the mouth
Like a sack of chicken bones:
We picked them clean
We left them bare. 

They say that in heaven
There are no husbands, no wives
Everyone is naked as the ascending angels
If that’s so then we are in heaven
We’re in heaven
In barrack 16
Lying on the furthest bunk
We have no memory of husbands, nor wives

You and me just come across the border
But we’ve forgotten it now

The two of us defending our bunk
Sharing our rations
Stuffing our thin pillow
Our shared pillow
With white down.

(with chicken feathers, you say?
Well, ok then.)

There’s a high cliff on the far bank
So we can’t see what’s over there
I’ve been over, but can’t remember

You and me drink from the same mess tin
At night we lick each other’s souls
Every morning we assemble outside

We haven’t given in, grassed anyone up
But the desire remains: to slink on our bellies
After the warm scent of blood, to the guard
And spill over in sincerity
Locking nothing back

(shame I don’t remember anything)

I’ve heard they come from over there
At night, warm, blooming with blood
They come to steal our memories,
They light fires, lead away our women
To beyond the transparent border
And only one ever returned

(but you don’t remember why you came back).

My darling my dearest if I start
To gaze beyond that river, kill me quick.

Translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdal.

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Spring 2024

Issue 107

The Spring 2024 issue features work by Mona Kareem, as translated by Sara Elkamel, as well as new poems by Mary Ruefle, Paul Muldoon, Khaled Mattawa, Marilyn Chin, Maria Stepanova, Timothy Donnelly, B.K. Fischer, Katie Peterson, Kimiko Hahn, and John Kinsella, among many others. This is André Naffis-Sahely’s final issue as poetry editor and it includes a valedictory editorial. Also featured are translations from Arabic, French, Hindi, Macedonian and Russian, as well as ‘House of Feels’, a craft essay by Dana Levin on sublimating pain through poetry, while Isabelle Baafi interviews Terrance Hayes and Tim Z. Hernandez.

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