Абрам Архипов, «Прачки», 1898.
Man uses his old disasters as a mirror.
Barely an hour after dark
that man picks up the bitter scraps of his day
painfully places them next to his heart
and sweating like a consumptive who still hasn’t given up
sinks into his deep, lonely room.
Here, such a man chainsmokes
he concocts disastrous cobwebs on the ceiling
he loathes fresh flowers
his own asphyxiating skin exiles him
he stares at his cold feet
he believes his bed is his daily grave
his pockets are empty
But those men, those other men,
gladly bare their chests to the sun
or to the murderers on the prowl
they lift the face of bread out of ovens
like a benevolent flag against hunger
they laugh so hard with the children even the air hurts
they fill with tiny footsteps the bellies of blessed women
they split rocks like stubborn fruit in their solemnity
naked they sing into the refreshing glass of water
they joke around with the sea playfully taking it by the horns
they build melodious houses of light in windswept wildernesses
like God they get drunk everywhere
they settle with their fists against despair
their avenging fires against crime
their love of unending roots
against the atrocious scythe of hatred.
Anguish exists, yes.
As does despair
For whom shall the voice of the poet speak?”
– from a volume discarded by Mount Prospect Public Library.