Yuri Tarnopolsky                                                 BAGATELLES                                    poetry   MAIN PAGE   

*** NEIGHBORHOOD   1996-1997  ***   Technos  2000-2001 ***  Bagatelles   2002 *** Misprints  2003 *** Anti-Noah  2004 ***    СРОКИ ДАВНОСТИ     Statute of limitations...(in Russian) 1971-1984 ***







To whom the Sonnets were addressed—
does it still matter?
The dirt roads of the past
have been paved with cobblestones.
The cracks on the modern macadam
are being patched up with bitumen.
The cell phones are silent, their batteries
in the white mold of thermodynamic death.
The radio beacons emit 911.
The taxicabs shuttle between Freude und Angst.
The chorus will never sound as one voice
Democracy have abolished the unison . . .
        and so on, ad infinitum.

Offered from the open palm
        of single entendre,
Music comes
        without allusions and connotations,
Falling like rain
        on split opinions
            and harsh habits.




                    The Herbivores

            Barefoot on grass.
            Life to life, like body to body.
            This is why the herbivores have hooves:
            Not to caress what they kill.





            1. The Eyes


     The delicate mismatch
     between dead and dormant
     nudges the dormant to hatch

     into the daylight—
     under the therapeutic patch
     against palsy and blight—

     and use the untested device
     of the eyes
     unpacked from the crate of the night.


            2. The Bears

     In the den of my soul
     a couple of bears
     peacefully hibernate:

     joy and disgust

     for the spring
     and its
     wrestling ring



        3. Choices

    Being selfish:
        drawn to the bait
            as to a magnet

    Being unselfish:
        casting a slashed

    Being like shellfish:
        with nothing to choose,
            nothing to lose.



         4. Time-tables

        One can nail times,
 names, and other items
 to slippery time-tables

       Given a chance,
one can merrily dance
on bare time-tables.

        One is quite able
to do anything, even burn,
but not to turn the tables.






                The Truth




The truth is the least valuable possession:
Does the truth matter if I love?
Does the truth matter if I die?

Coming in thousands of shades and flavors,
It's just a candy. It's a grocery item.

Instead, the number is of value:
Stern, stiff-necked,
it has no color, no flavor, no label,
but it comes as more
or less.

You can't have more truth.
You can have less truth.

I search for the truth, ergo…
Oh, come on!

Instead, the lie of art is of value.




How much does the truth weigh?
I’m dropping all my scrawny lies,
clanging like coins, one by one,
on the opposite pan of the balance.

I am out of lies.
I add all my silly arguments,
doubts, and insinuations
against the elephantine truth.

My last trick: I tie
a Happy Birthday balloon of hope
to the truth.
And it works!





            To conquer a land,
            an army was needed.

            Now you can make money alone
            you don't need a crown
            you don't need an army
            you don't need anybody.




            The nocturnal swamps of thought,
            reflecting the distant stars
            in the spotty pools of darkness,
            the frothy surf of lust,
            popping its ephemeral bubbles,
            the Styx of the perennial crossroads
            that could not be taken both ways—
            none of it could be traversed
            along the stepping stones of money.

            Instead, one can walk on the firm ground.


            Rome died. Slavery ended.
            The Middle Ages won
            by default. Serfdom died.
            Rome was cloned in new empires.

            Generations felt the rumbling earth under their feet.
            But the volcanoes died.
            Parks grew on bitter Epicurean ashes.
            The fight for land ended.

            We carry the sweet soil of motherland:





         Dogs and children 



            My heart is sinking,
            heavy with empathy:
            I look into the eyes of dogs and children.

            The dogs will always be dogs.
            The children will never be children again.



            Dogs and children,
            living by today,
            are the only true believers in the Almighty.

            The rest are just opportunists.

            Dogs cannot say what they think
            Children always say what they think
            And the rest of us just plot and scheme.



            Dogs and children bet on us.
            They mostly win.
            When they lose,
            They don't know the gain from loss.



            The man in the mirror
            gives me his left hand for a handshake.
            He combs his hair from right to left .
            He writes with his left hand.
            I can read his scribble
            with another Euclidean mirror.

            He is my mirror image.

            But in the time mirror
            I see no change:
            the child is still as curious as myself.
            He is as timid, as reclusive.
            He makes same mistakes.
            He fails. He stumbles.
            He is easily tired by trying,

but as stubborn.

            At last, I find the difference:
            He cannot write in English.

            Life was ahead.


            The smell of boxwood
            Turns on the memories
            of my best years:
            young wife, little child,
            blue sea.

            Now I grow boxwood.
            I cut some twigs,
            put them into water,
            wait for the roots.

            I want to make spare memories
            to last for several lives.



            Everything is under a surface:
            The surface means nothing.
            The surface is mean.
            The surface lies.
            It is only the surface.
            The substance is underneath.

            But the surface is all we can see:
            we see only the surface:
            we see the face of the watch:
            we don't care about its gears.

            We trust the face
            like we trust the watch.
            We shake hands.
            We kiss. We touch.

            Face against face.
            Surface against surface.


            "I don't want to dwell in the depths
            where there are no seasons,
            no rain, no stars.

            For I believe in no truth.
            What is deep is as much high
            and out of reach
            like the sour grapes
            too high for the fox.

            I look at the surface:
            There are scores of things
            To touch and turn and push
            and break and throw away:
            to feel important, a big shot."



            Why would I worry
            about the world without myself?
            Why would I care about it?
            Why would I care
            about anything post-myselfish?

            It is just a habit of life that is hard to change,
            like to quit smoking.   








            This is the time when the tired and sleepy mind
            slides into peace
            as a finger into a wedding ring.

            It is the time of conformity and magnanimity.
            It is the right time for I'm sorry.

            This is the time of peace
            and final decisions.

            Time of reconciliation
            and forgiveness.

            This is the time of peace
            and final words.

            Time to agree
            and to say:
            “That's it.” 




            On traffic nights,
            from the coastal points,
            my thoughts are driving to the heartland,
            like relatives to the funeral.

            At the traffic lights,
            my hoarse, croaky thoughts
            are waiting for the eternal red,
            but the road is open: carry on.

            The traffic knives
            split my mind into halves:
            one to the left,
            the other to the right:

            My map doubles its hemispheres.



           The thoughts are black, like the seed of papaya,
            Or white, like the seed of cucumber.

            Inedible, incredible, they should be discarded.

            If sown, they bring up the same thoughts
            Every year.







            We should stand firm
            on the ground,
            take sides,
            and never doubt.

            Well, yes and no can be confusing,
            even though the instincts
            can always break the tie.

            Only life and death are set apart,
            as our eyes and ears:
            to not err with the distance
            and direction.



            The world of book
            and the real world
            are worlds apart
            connected by the wormholes
            of bookworms. 








            Young poets write about love
            and apples:
            each one is the first.

            Old poets write about apples
            and love:
            each one is the last.



            Ego cannot multiply:
            as if it were the last animal on earth.

            This is why we are mortal:
            We are always alone.
            No mate.

            A painting cannot multiply
            but it is immortal.
            So they say.





            One comes to the new land
            and goes:
            the traveler is the same,
            the land is the same,
            the traveler leaves no trace

of his sojourn.

            One can visit a made-up place
            and return,
            with no ticket as a proof,
            and no postcard.

            But the place will never be the same:
            it will be discovered
            for the first time.




            There is no fate:
            only events,
            confused, pushing each other:
            the cattle,
            running through a narrow passage into the corral.

            There are no events,
            only the fate: the shepherd,
            the builder of the narrow passages.


            The king sends his army to death,
            while imagining a victory.

            There must be somebody,
            Who weighs both outcomes.



            The fate is invincible.
            I can defeat it
            only if it assaults me playfully,
            but backs me up
            with her other hand.

            It can break me,
            but it can't even break a twig,
            nor throw a stone.

            I can.
            I am afraid of myself.

            The Pendulum

            I am full of energy:
            I am afraid to move.
            I am afraid of faux pas.
            A misstep—and I explode.

            I am weak and languid
            I have no energy:
            I have nothing to fear
            I venture into the world,
            like the Spring bear.

            The Millstones


            The words: Life. Death. World.
            What is the meaning
            Of every such word
            As heavy as a millstone?

            Death is the last sack of corn
            that we drop off
            with the last sigh.

            The world is what never stops
            grinding corn.

            Life is the bread
            that goes well
            with love,
            which does not belong here:
            feathery, volatile,
            made in the vineyards.


            The heavy old words,
            from the slow old worlds,
            are out of place
            in the fast spinning world
            of  marquees and CDs.

            Some quiet day off
            we would go to a cemetery
            and leave a stone on top
            of a former millstone.



            Rolling Millstones
            on a stone CD?
            If everything turns around,
            why not?

            People want to live forever
            not because of the expectations
            but because of memories.


                        The Show

            Enchanted by the fantastic shapes—

            the torrents of human nature,
            congealing right before my eyes,

            the genesis of a new world
            from old humans and new Things,

            the futility of hate,
            the hypocrisy of love,
            the putrefaction of envy—

            I think about a man
            dying on the stage for real:
            he would see only his poor life
            in a flash. 




                        A crow flies by my window,
                        croaking, "Power! Power!"
                        and tosses me its quick shadow.
                        I have no power over the crows.

The blank sheet of paper:
I can fill it with unthinkable words and doodles.
but I have no power over the unthinkable.

Behind the Windows® bars,
I have awesome powers:
insert, delete, even save,
let alone doodle,
but I can't save the run-over squirrel,
and if I did, the crow would starve.

I can paste my shadow
on the blank sheet of paper:
it looks like the crow
diving from the roof.


                The Fruit

Most of the world wants
the once tried sweet fruit,
even if dried.

Some try and spit
the stone—the core, the heart—the pit.

What a few want does not exist.
They don't know what it is
when they find it: it's not on the list.




Yuri Tarnopolsky                                                   POETRY


NEIGHBORHOOD    1996-1997          Technos      2000-2001

Bagatelles   2002    Misprints   2003   Anti-Noah  2004

СРОКИ ДАВНОСТИ   Statute of limitations...(in Russian) 1971-1984