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by Iryna Shuvalova translated by Uilleam Blacker

NELLE 6 | 2023

alisa have you realised now that no harm will come to us
that nobody will block our way in this dark alley
that there was no need for your mother to spend half the night
calling your friends
and we will wake up in the morning alive and well
maybe just a little older a little sadder
unfortunately no wiser
did you know alisa?

alisa it looks as though that shotgun hanging on the wall
will no longer be able to shoot us in the face and so
it is no longer fitting for us to be startled by the light by too much air
let’s instead be careful square flat as we walk above the thunderous
hell of laughter above the fiery chasm of love
let’s breathe evenly hold our backs straight and avoid
looking down

see now I’ve begun to understand
that others will leave us but that we will stay here alisa
and only the heads of burs we lopped off with our wooden swords
year on year grow back this hundred-headed hydra of life
laughs with its flowering jaws in the face of
pale, scrawny death
maybe it’s not true that death always has the last laugh alisa

how we would open the door and each time
find ourselves in new rooms full of doors we are still
choosing we still have options but
fewer and fewer alisa if only someone had told us
how loudly and irrevocably those doors slam shut behind us
that is the sound of our dead applauding
congratulating us on our flowering wilting rotting
and flowering again

they say that time is an infernal machine alisa but no
time is a black cabriolet with an open top
it is a carriage full of gypsies and bears
it is a hearse that carries the fiddlers to the wedding
it creaks and rocks with the music
and when it finally runs over us alisa
such rampant red roses
will burst from our ridiculous
already useless

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