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Al Manac



SHAMSHAD ABDULLAEV, translated by Darlene Reddaway

A Taste for the Coast

One season: and we arrive here

too late, having come from south to north,
on the way back. Past the window lattice
smoke sputters and the stone house
catches fire, like a pale yellow mirage in a fruitful field
on special days by the calm. From the outer wall
amidst marketplace junk, there's less coal than eyes
winding up walls from the Sunday crowd
where ears of harmsir* grow amidst the yellow.
It was not the river that flowed,
but the things reflected in it that rippled in cadence,
and clocks and clouds took off upstream, as if
you were heading for the wide water
amidst whirling park wasps and women, when
the bilious awn bowed before the bazaar fire pit, and
to your father's unclean shadow. The picture
pelted backwards, into the thick
of the quiet emulsion. Wind and waves.
* a kind of grain
Week's End

Bridge, horizon, or wall in the distance it's not important.
We, thank God,
are banished from the city if only for a time; a serious step.
But as before, we're so helpless
we can't worship nature, so instead we worship
the Personlessness in which we abide
this entire waning day. And neither by prayer, nor frenzied
naivete, nor fleeting artlessness
can anyone be saved
who boasts of too useless an anonymity,
having chosen impassable roads. We survey the world,
for now unfamiliar and because of this we seem to see
nothing at all (or has the thing seen
deprived us of our sight?). The glade,
the reservoir, the pellet, the mulberry, and the wagon,
overswept with weeds, and suddenly,
God knows from where she came a churchgoer
who adjures us: "Silence."
And right away: a click of the Spidola*,
where, a moment ago, were muttering voices,
women and men in various languages,
making it seem we had an archetypal
audio map of the world, a sign offered
to the Sunday silence. We turned the noise off.
A lone breeze rustled an old piece of straw
and vanished in the colorless air. Nettles
swayed below and lay down under them
a small oval of earth was exposed, like a wound,
and in an instant it was hidden again and overgrown by the grass:
windlessness, no sound. I held my breath.
You touched, as per a script, my breast
with your palm. Then, like inevitability,
a girl walked along the low hill (limping!)
and froze at the end of the glade, as if the silence
had already foretold the childish figure on this spot
or had sent her ahead to meet us.

How can all this be saved? For whom are you waiting?
* A brand name Lithuanian radio manufactured in the 1960s.
A Propos of a Greek Photograph

Sea, insect, horse. To gaze,
torturing the eyes. Flies
were minted along the center snuffed air. Stone,
a small mainspring, worm under hand
untouched earthly trifle. He
fell asleep in Belaqua's pose; neither alive
nor dead. A tear,
as if a needle, catches the elusive swelling of lips
on a scorched face. Without a cry
he opened his eyes or rather, they themselves,
for his lack of concern, surfaced from his lids. An unseeable essence
stared through the millennium
at the road sign. In the end,
not stirring, he licks drops from his lips
and feels the aftertaste of melancholy
in God's right hand, in a dead tavern, in someone else's bed.
Week's End, Film

Landscape: like a gift. The spirit streams
past domestic twilight (Dreyer
forged whiteness above the northerly mold
this take is for redemption, the Irish
monk said and plunged into the water
where the mud sloped downward and at foggy midday the depth steamed
above a distant drowning victim). So flows
the Comforter.
Livestock eat something like communion wafers
but the sun drives dogs and gray window panes out of
their mind in the neighboring yard. Friends, hands dancing in a summer cafe.
the concrete has a name. The river, rising, endures
the phosphorescence of workers' quadrants; nowhere.
And behind the house dust careens
in a granular prism: the local
dead end will scarcely dry out. We go still further
talking under our breath or
humming "The Salsbury." Not chaos,
but controlled chaos, like a river whose current
raises the dead in vain:
fish, suicides. The ancient ray
streams from one street into another. Long
shadows descended into the cool room from southern
roofs: opposite. A moment
consists of a thousand dark leeches,
its facet work lengthens.
Sunday dust is all in our eyes.
Week's End: Walk with a Friend

So they walked, out onto the hilly vista so broad that
the worn path became more visible, while the frayed curve
of the fence with its pungent-green, mossy covering
and the dirty gust of wind, arising from the dead end
to overtake us, as it always does, from behind,
worked together, deafening the epic decor, like Paris,
as first seen through the eyes of Rousseau
in all its fat, cackling lackluster.
Compressed by creeping dust and shaggy sprouts of
the cheap expanse is exactly here.
We slow our step, infected by the silence. Everywhere
It breathes. A Something.
A comforting duration, a blazing sun, beetles
shift heavily like sullen pilgrims on the stubble
to expose each time suddenly while bursting
into flight, their pale, very pale-rose wings.
You think we'll be saved this way,
constantly holding our own, like "them." I'm stuffed
to the gills with the feigned ordinariness of summer's
We lie, having spread our arms on the trampled field
two crosses
from a bird's eye view; I grope a young reed,
clutching at evasive fragility with my nail; and you
read about how Rimbaud died (is dying):
words, prompted by pain, "allah karim"
but the angel is already up for grabs (every








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