Yuri  Tarnopolsky                 NEIGHBORHOOD          To main page                  poetry


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

 
                                                             A neighborhood of a point or a set
                                                                        is an open set that contains it.

                                                                                        Topology glossary


 
 
 

                    NEIGHBORHOOD
 

                                    1996-1997
 
 

            *    *    *

  I've just come
  from a suitcaseless journey,
  refreshed by a roarless flight,
  with seeds of the starworld life
  in my locket.
  I came from  The Islands,
  named along exotic spices:
  Melatonin, Melanoma, Melancholy -
  I sampled incredible species
  of life and death and their many combinations.
  With some dry petals still in my pocket,
  I am looking over my new dwelling.
 
 

 

            *    *    *

  The night. The neighborhood.
  The sleeping cars.
  Where are their souls?
  In bed: the sleeping bodies.
  Where are the bodies’ souls?
  In dreams. They drive.
  Where are the dreams?
  They fly. They never drive.
 
 


      *    *    *

  Who tosses my head
  From hand to hand,
  Like a hot potato?
  Who braids
  My fingers?
  Who wraps up my heart into a newspaper
  And binds it crisscross with a cord?
  Fear.
 
 
 

         *    *    *

  The world will never end,
  But we shall die.
  The snow will always melt,
  But we'll survive.
  The dreams and hope:
  between the snowfall and my world:
  the frosted windowpanes.
 
 
 

    *    *    *

  This is a lie
  that happy ones
  do not write poems.
  I do: I am.
  I am not dead,
  Nor ill,
  nor in the pang of love.
  I want to understand this world:
  With whisper
  I nudge it to respond.
 
 
 

        *    *    *

  The way I see the winter night:
   The sprawling Orion, the houses,
  the windy dance of trees,
  and lights in freezing pools,
  and scent of distant dryers,
  It is the way I breathe :
  I simply live.
  The language is the life.
 
 
 

        *    *    *

  A one-legged poet of aging,
  in the land of evergreens,
  looking for my deciduous kind,
  I want to lose everything,
  to sleep over this ferocious winter
  and sprout my defiant green.
  Only the things age here
  in their casings:
  the buyers are immortal:
  they divide like bacteria.
  It is your trunk, they say, that we need:
  we need firewood.
  Your flamboyance is welcome.

 

    *    *    *

  This winter is slow!
  A couple of distant cries
  From a distant world:
  A thunderstorm in February,
  Washing away the last mildew of snow,
  like somebody's last remaining years.
  Some music, some poetry, some rain —
  And my grass is coming from under the snow,
  but only because the snow retreats.

  Is there anything we don't know?
 
 
 

          *    *    *

  Low-budget, silent,
  black-and-white, static,
  although with brilliant all-star cast,
  the movie of the sky
  is what I watch.
  I am alone
  In the abandoned drive-in
  turned into a drive-out.
 


        *    *    *

 I don't want anything that ends,
 And everything ends.
 I don't want anything lasting forever,
 But the rut goes on.
 And so I start and end, start and end,
 While the squirrel is doing its balancing act
 On the upper beam of the fence.
   
 

        *    *    *

  I cover the sprouts of daffodils
  With glass jars:
  The frost is coming

  There is so much life in the woods -
  Flying and crawling and hopping,
  Still asleep.

  Children run around
  On rollers.
  The change is coming.

  There are so many ideas and plans
  In my head.
  But the frost is coming.
 

  

            *    *    *

  Why do we like to look at young  faces?
  There were times when we saw only them,
  Like dogs see dogs from afar,
  And adults were like boulders -
  all of different sizes,
  But all the same.

  Yet why do we look at old faces?
  They are young
  but rippled by the pebbles of events:
  in the liquid mirrors of time
  they are young.
 

 

        *    *    *

  The ocean is ashamed of being so big:
  He hides behind the horizon.
  We can see only his wet tong.
  Often he just chews his cud.
  Now and then, however,
  ecstatic, with foaming mouth,
  he wants to tell us something.
  We only laugh,
  we feel happy.
  Hey, dreamer, it is just water.
  No, it is wet wine.
  Sweet saliva.
  Well, it is plasma.
  OK, saline.
 
 

        *    *    *

  The comet, the Blue Moon,
  a flood, a drought,
  Waltwhitmanosaurus Rex,
  Emilia Dickinsoni
  Whimsical, erratic,
  they  drop in on impulse,
  haphazard.
  The timely  fall comes Always,
  with the cornucopia of ripe old poets.
  Who needs green poets?
  They don’t exist. They are weeds.
  There is no such thing
  as a young thunderbolt.
 
 


       *    *    *

Like you, women, I live by cycles,
From ups to downs,
Like you, civilizations, I rise and fall.
From pride to shame,
Like you, stocks, I soar and plummet
From nothing to nothing.
Like you, October foliage,
I stick to the ground:
With  neither pride nor shame.
Like you, free water,
I rise with vapor and fall with rain,
 From despair to delight.
 I can’t believe
 I am flowing downhill.
 

 

    *    *    *

The larger the crowd,
The smaller everyone.
We don’t reed  same newspapers.
The tingling of the horror movie is sweet.
We can shine only among a few peers.
All we need is a few friends.
Civilization is not about friendship.
It is about things.
A Few is all we need.
The civilization of youth
Can only age.
The civilization of decline
Can only burst like a cocoon,
Sending the New into the world.
There is something  Few inside us.
 
 

 

        *    *    *

It is the night of the year:
We all are a big family:
The raccoons, the trees,
The bulbs of daffodils,
Beach chairs,
Sunroofs,
Light love affairs,
Skimpy nights.
We all are sitting in the kitchen.
The snow plows
Are turning in their sleep.
 
 

        *    *    *

The  sorrow is all over the place:
Young people are struggling with their youth,
Old people are struggling with everybody’s youth.
Nobody struggles with the old:
They snap even under a casual glance
They are either shy or arrogant,
Like  teenagers.
 
 
 

            *    *    *

  It takes forty years
  For the petal of the upper lip to wither
  But it still opens to a kiss
  It takes thousand years
  For a civilization to develop arthritis
  But a lot of children still run around.
  It takes five minutes to lose interest
  In almost anything.
  The life devotion is rare,
  except  to either beauty or money.
 
   
 

        *    *    *

There are four friendly seasons:
No black, no white. No good, no evil.
Just a crisscross:
Male—Female. Up—Down.
Fall: FD. Winter: MD.
Spring: FU. Summer: MU.

This is Fall: she is down,
And soon I will follow her,
and then  I will wake her up
And follow her
On a carousel .
 

 

    *    *    *

The bituminous affluence,
The glutinous  peace,
The molasseous comfort,
Somnolence.
Constant shuffle of small crises,
disorders, and moans.
In this circus  a gunshot
like a whip in the arena
tames the timid, they cling together.
The bold ones watch the blood on TV.
The tireless, tyrantless nation
Is ever young.
It sleeps well.
 
   
 

 

        *    *    *

I am afraid of sharing my memories
     Telling my story
         Opening my heart
                 Being frank.
A photo camera may take your soul away.

Likewise, I am afraid of confessing.
I am afraid of the eyes of my listeners:
they may take my soul away.
When I speak,
I scramble my words.
 
 

    *    *    *

Believer in the conservation laws,
I relish my sorrow:
When I feel dismal,
Somebody is ecstatic.
This is my way
to make somebody happy .
But I have doubts:
When I make love,
Who is  tortured?
I have my limits.
It is as easy to die as to be born.
I’d better stay alive.
 
 

    *    *    *

Two whispers
are rustling in my ears:
The Tao tells me:
Go away, in the mountains,
Far from the crowd..
Buddha tells me:
Give up desire.
I never listened to any voice,
When I was young.
 

 

 

            *    *    *

Through the stampede of Things,
Through the flurry of bills, ads, checks, forms,
I am dragging my feet.

From the  faces and  breasts, like from beasts
From  the hands and eyes, like from fires
I  flee.

Tired of souls, tired of thoughts,
Stamping the crackling dry twigs of ideas
following—like bacteria—the  same branching pattern
for millennia,
Light and empty I feel.
I am happy:
I don’t want to change I for we.
 

 

 

        *    *    *

Surrounded by the world,
I have nowhere to go
but into myself:
there are too many  directions
outward, and the more out
the more branching.
Inward bound,
I find less and less junctions:
It is easy  to find my way.
 
 

 

        *    *    *

Humankind! We are all human!
I love everybody!
Embrace, millions!

I wish I could be the citizen of the world,
But I am afraid to be in a bad company.

This is my nation,
desti-nation, coro-nation,
my last rein-car-nation.
Nobody wants me here,
Nobody wants to make me happy.

The  apple  pie is my coat of arms,
maize  and pumpkin are  my scepter and  orb .
I am the king of squirrels:
they take  peanuts from my hand.
 
 

 

        *    *    *

The gears of instinct:
lever, cog, spring, crankshaft, piston—
The paraphernalia of  memory:
byte, file, directory, disk—
The warehouses of possession:::
inside countless things
the callous, heartless ideas
lay stiff in the rigor mortis of matter.

The woods of desire: shady, pungent, slippery, mossy—
The flowers of sorrow: tawny, ruddy, saffron, hazel—
The ephemeral  kaleidoscopic butterflies of  regrets
hatch from the pupae of fleeting longings.
  

 

            *    *    *

  Do not fret over the shortness of life
  And the softness of the flesh
  Armored  by the cuirass  of the car:
  The life of things is even shorter:
  They die young in the jaws of fashion.
  As compared with things we are immortal.
  We take things as pets,
  even consorts and lovers.
  Their ferric hemoglobin
  and ferrous genes
  go to our  ferocious heirs.
 
 

 

        *    *    *

 Those are my neighbors:
 Small houses with no garage,
 Oaks and Indian Cherries,
 Cars running by as if to salvation,
 Dogs trusted by their masters to wander around
 Or just neglected,
 Squirrels and all the invisible life in the woods.
 The humans are not my neighbors:
 they live in their own worlds.
 For them I am only a neighbor.
 For me they are ambassadors of the Earth.
 
 

            *    *    *

 Try something new, you smiling man,
 used to the bitterness of coffee and chili.
 Experiment around, you happy woman,
 used to the bitterness of  tonic and  rejection.
 Try the delicate  sweet sadness.
 Try on the exquisite death mask.
 Try making somebody happier
 than yourself.
Try  the melancholy of  solitude,
Various imperfections,
The vast ocean of infectious sorrow.
Navigate it by radio,
With closed eyes.
 

 

        *    *    *

So few people  cry here,
Not even the babies.

So many young people run to the office
And shuffle back old and infirm.

So few people lose their minds,
Not even the poor.

So many people  make love in a fish bowl
And then wash away the water.

So few people see dreams:
So many live them.
 
 

 

            *    *    *

From the Bronze Festive Age
To the Iron Rusty Age
I stepped over the threshold of maturity.

From the continent of belongings
To the continent of property
I jumped in just a day.

From the Paleolithic Age of pre-TV
To the Neolithic  Age of the Web,
I  have jumped in just one life.

By definition,
The Golden Age is always behind
but I am still looking for it.
 
 

 

        *    *    *

It is cold, cold...
“The world is old, old...”

With the Medieval joy of battle, conquest,
hacked  and pierced flesh,
we arrived at the moats of inner cities.

Where is my walking stick?
“The world is sick, sick.”

With so much insurance and taxes paid,
How can anybody die?
Life is too  precious
to share the mind with death.

I command this song to be sung:
“The world is young, young. “
 

 

         *    *    *

Surrounded by the world,
How can we notice a leaf on the ground?
But we do indeed see it.
A blue jay  watches me
with no clue of  who I am.
But the mere attention will do.
Uninvited, unwanted,
everything is seen.
 
 
   
 

        *    *    *

It is not the money, they say,
It is love:
the buttons of things come to life
like the nipples under the  fingers.

In the homey  bedroom of the kitchen
The electrical whip is set for S&M.
It is family love, they insist,
changing the diapers of the toaster.

It is not money, they say,
it is the Kama-Sutra of  possession:
it is the seed of  ideas
impregnating  matter
in millions of ways,
making it  bloat with things.

The mature bulls of things
Are dripping with money,
looking for young cows.

It is the  power to erect
the lever of the voting machine.
 
 

   

     *    *    *

It all starts with the weather:
The wind from the north
runs along the spines of the hills,
ruffles  the  bristle  of  the pines,
picks up images
cuddling under the fallen leaves,
and ends up in visions of poets.
It all starts with the weather:
the south wind comes,
turning the kaleidoscope of combinations,
mixing up the impossible drinks,
waking up snakes and spiders,
warming up the land
for the wind from the north.
 
 

 

        *    *    *

So much has been forgotten, lost,
and ridiculed to death,
that we may start anew,
even if ahead of time,
abating the shame of  banality.
Eventually, we shall all get together,
invite the things and  animals,
and provide handicapped access
for senior ideas.
A Renaissance  computer
will display the fireplace.
We shall join virtual hands.
 



        *    *    *

Sometimes I see from my windows:
Electric pole, cable, mailbox, car,
bicycle, airplane, and lawn mower.
Sometimes I see oak, dog, crow, squirrel,
firefly, cloud, star, and  grass.
We could probably produce electricity
From my changing mood,
But  a squirrel running high on a cable
Could mess up the emotional power station.

 
   

        *    *    *

The color perplexity
of complexity
is down to one color,
not even black and white:
moonlight.
I understand all simple things
between life and death
love and hate
(there are not too many).
The moon is hooked up
to the fierce electricity
of simplicity.
 

 

        *    *    *

The Things are joining the nature
in rites of  life and death.
My car feels he is dead
Under the killing rain:
He is cooling down
like a corpse.
The other car is steaming:
She’s just arrived,
Full of life, irreverent of death.
We are joining the Things,
in rites of immortality.
 
 

 

        *    *    *

How would  I see myself
In a column on the march?
On the roadside.

How  would I see myself
In  the field  where men are wheat?
As a cornflower.

How would I see myself
In a crowd of smiling faces, waving hands?
As a clock.

How do I  feel myself
In a crowd of the merry and proud?
Uptight.

Where do I feel at home?
At home.
 
 

        *    *    *

The rusty blood of Things
runs high  in copper veins.
The rubber heart of Things
pounds away in plastic chests.
The purling brook of speech
wets carnal teenage sleep.
Our  waxy curly brain
pulsates in puerile dreams
of our new  children.
Soon we will talk face to face.
 


 

        *    *    *

Ice-Water-Snow-Water
Snow-Water-Ice-Water
The seasons are rocking my boat,
The water rolls from side to side:
It cannot freeze.
Reasons are simple.
Explanations  are long.
Words are  shadows.
Casting a long shadow is easy
When the sun is low.

It is not what you think it is
nor what you think it is not.
To know the truth
Wait until the sun is hot.
 
 


            *    *    *

Only useless things are precious.

To play  the husky xylophone of the trunks.
To drink the fog fresh from the sky udder
To mimic  the  brisk  movements of birds.

Freedom is not the freedom of choice:
To choose is a hard work,
like to sit still for a child.

There is only one freedom:
of dolce far niente.
We can only dream about it.
 
 

 

            *    *    *

I can’t believe  I am telling him:
“ The matter consists of atoms.”
“ The earth is round.”
“  Life evolves.”

I am branding this young mind
with red-hot  iron.
He will never think otherwise.
Afraid of my power,
I  bless the power of doubt.
 
 

 

        *    *    *

In the world with no promise

of  rain to any desert,
nor luck to any affair,
nor happy marriage to everybody,
the Things are quiet bystanders,
the pillars to lean on
in a display of despair .
They take both love and rejection easy,
Equally good as servants and concubines,
They made us all the nobles.
Only a few of us fear the revolt.

Tonight let us cling to the Things
oozing with the hot coffee of love,
crackling happily under our hands
and bodies,
smiling slyly behind our backs.
 
 

 

        *    *    *

It all  will  flee  me
in an exodus, as  from  Egypt,
in reversed order:
the last
as it came first to me:
The giants of adults,
the scary shadows on the ceiling,
fear of  dogs and cows—
The knowledge of everything,
earned at the very end,
will go first, mercifully.
I will not understand the end.
     

 

            *    *    *

Do we really need to say the truth?
With all the burden to prove it?
And the inconveniences to defend?
And the commitment to fight the lies?
Do we need to wake up every morning?
With the spousal naked body of truth?
Curled aside, frigid, fruitless?
No wonder they hate our truth.
Because we hate ours.
No wonder we are so nice and tolerant.
And carry electronic relativators
Along with tubes of skunk spray.
 
 

 

 

        *    *    *

All  the trees of a kind
are look-alikes.
You, human beings,
prone to imitate, follow, and mimic
like the school of fish—
you are not alone in the nature:
The curse of all things alive is:
to come in numbers.
Even those in the image of One
imitate each other’s uniqueness.
 
 
 

 

        *    *    *

Death is life after me.
It is longer than life,
But much safer.
If it were as terrible as we think,
The roofs of the hospitals would collapse,
and two-headed calves would be born,
and  blood would seep
through the walls of  water towers.

Even if millions die—
the peace is sweet.
The air, fragrant of remaining lives,
smells  fresh like after a thunderstorm.

If I die
nothing will happen.
We should not be afraid.
 
 

             *    *    *

A big  wind  comes once in a while,
Ruffling the fur of  time,
Stripping  the instincts off layered clothes,
Rewriting the stone tablets of minds,
Breaking the half-broken.

The wind of the new century
Left art bent, washed out, stripped, warped.
The snow-grass of bank notes covered the earth
And never melted-wilted since.

The winter of novelty was welcome:
Everybody could become like everybody else.
Everybody could have a pet Thing.

The locust of Things ate the snow-grass:
It fell-grew overnight.

The  wind  whooshed   away.
 
 

 

        *    *    *

Life is short.
Why did it ever seem so long?
It loses whole chunks of the past.
The body of latest  grievances is the slimmest ever.
The old grievances are all gone.

Life is long enough to file an appeal,
too short to wait for the ruling.
 
 


        *    *    *

Never go with the tide:
It will revert.
Never go against it
For the same reason.

Never fall in love:
descend carefully,
like with a leg in a cast,
down the winding stairs
of a lighthouse.

Never regret mistakes:
They will happen again.
Don’t  to-be-or-not-to-be:
It doesn’t matter.
 
 

 

            *    *    *

A city child, grown among stone corn-cobs
with kernels of  bodies
hulled by millions onto the streets
where the streetcars,
carrying the ambitious and the tired,
fiercely charge on each other
but the very last moment luckily pass by—

always hungry for novelty,
I now live among  green cathedrals
full of simple faith in life,
side-by-side with the simple creatures
discussing in a tentative language
their simple parochial problems.

The full-blown summer
infects me with the sweet non-thinking,
a great exercise before non-existence.
I deny my childhood:
it never happened.
 

 
 

        *    *    *

My beloved dog died.
My school friend looks like my grandfather.
My wife is a half-stranger,
What I see in the mirror is a complete one.

I look up in a sudden need of protection,
But my parents are long gone.
I try on the shroud of indifference:
It does not fit:
There is some life in me,
slowly seeping out
through obstructed ducts.

 


                *    *    *

The live photos of the deceased
are not the same as the photos of the killed
the killed are rarely old
the deceased are rarely young.
Still you cannot tell one from the other.
 


            *    *    *

The  mystique  of money:
The power of a pure idea of quantity
moving the people and the mountains.

Humans
have never been as close to infinity
as when counting money,
submerging into the ever quieter depths
of numbers so big
that they are all equal.
 
 

 

         *    *    *

Let me be alone:
The hell with the  daily transfusion
of g’mornings, g’byes,
bonds and ties —
I close my eyes
and chase off  the social illusion.

Leave me in peace:
I’ll  brush off the sawdust
of Millions of miles,
Millions of smiles
and even Millions of coffees  and sodas.

Let me grow, let me die like a tree:
Nillions of lies
Nillions of cries
and the foliage of thoughts
dying  free.
 
 

        *    *    *

The square, the round,
even the perfectly triangular,
rolling, scrolling –
How can they change my life
If I still read Plato,
as archaic as radio?

With cordless cordiality
radio keeps my eyes open:
I  watch Socrates
carving a succulent piece of thought.
   
 

 

            *    *    *

Fragmentation:
This is what is happening to us:
hulled from the pod
to be individuals,
we split first matter into atoms,
then spirit into bits,
then life into nucleotides,
then nations into factions.

Balkanized, we are now flocking  back
to the ecumenical  church of numbers
under the single banner of money,
to the comfort of simple goal,
to the sugar pill of acceptance,
to the sure salvation of  making.
 
 
 

 

            *    *    *

The second hand
is slapping the face of the sleepy clock
doling out
second-hand time
for the second-time offenders
doing time for delinquency
on time-tables.
 
 

 

        *    *    *

Squirrels ate my sunflowers
and gooseberries,
but the money plant
is withering peacefully,
losing its denominational seeds—
three, five, seven—
undressing
down to the silky nightgown.

Soil, wind, rain, and sun,
the true elements of life,
have made me rich.

Winter
will made me clever.
 
 

 

          *    *    *

  I was a new form of life.
  Energy was everywhere:
  I grazed in the fields of the power lines,
  I nibbled on  the quanta around the clairvoyants.
  I chased the cars on highways,
  picking the crumbs of cellular talk.
  I fed on the outbursts of anger and hate,
  And the sweet juice of the turning switches,
  And the clicking jellybeans of keyboards.
  My seed multiplied, and soon
  I became a predator.
  A big silence fell upon the earth.
 
 

          
 
 
 
 =======================================================

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