Oksana Zabuzhko, Ukraine

Por: Oksana Zabuzhko

New York, NY 

…you’ve known the country so long you can remember
when the subway cost half as much…

Tilted Libra burns in the sky, and
from this hemisphere Sagittarius looks like a cowboy.
The Moon appears abruptly like a terrorist,
not from her usual side, but around a foreign corner…
In this country I’m free, just like a letter
tossed into a drawer and forgotten until its time.
You can veer from your route and sit in the park on Riverside
until morning, just gazing at Brooklyn…
(Even before me, this country held enough unwelcomes—
in whose eyes I am just another white chick.)

Anonymity is freedom — even before an ID is stolen,
it’s extraneous, even at a motel —
what you tread is neither firmament, nor waters,
it’s what used to be the ceiling.
This is why the ocean is crossed
(and the Towers are set up, like pins to be knocked over).
I love this country because it’s nobody’s,
because it is not mine and I don’t have to love it.

                Translated from the Ukrainian by Ostap Kin, Ali Kinsella and Jazlyn Kraft

Diptych From The Year 2008



You said to love them, Lord,
this rod light heating my lashes
this mob of Boschian mugs hurling their stones at You
dragging from the depths of withered souls
the darkest curses under heaven:
“Crucify him! Crucify him!” rips from their throats. 
Rattling like the metro, from the underground tunnel of time 
(hear the wagons knocking along the tracks) — 
comes an echo: “Sig heil! Sig heil!”
Eyes shut, 
arms out, 
fists clenched.
These are Your people, Lord.
See: they haven’t changed: 
amphitheaters, colosseums, bestiaries,
the smell of human flesh burning on the plazas of Madrid, 
they’re the ones carrying kindling for an auto-da-fe 
nostrils flare inhaling whiffs of a heretic’s bones 
(the executioner draws down his red mask, 
the interrogator shines a light in his victim’s eyes, 
a centurion adjusts his belt buckle...).

And these are my people, Lord,
exiling the train on wobbly legs
falling, drunk on their first sips of’freedom,
trembling, they rise, gather in crowds,
their cloudy gaze scans the horizon for a shepherd,
an inquisitor, a caesar, a centurion—
whoever tells them: “Come, kneel before me—
and free yourselves of your selves!”
Out they pour, muscles stiffening,
hands probing for stones,
eyes half-lidded, blood pulsing,
from their starved throats
rises the same, two-thousand year old
rhythmic growl.

These are Your people, Lord.
Send them your Son again.
Come, Lord:
They’re ready.


                               8/8/2008 — the start of the Russian-Georgian war 

History, you bitch,
again you’ve got me by the throat,
again you’ve shaken my soul, 
again you send my thoughts down a tunnel echoing with the cry:
“No passaran! They will not pass!”    —
blocking the view
with the gray cobblestones of the morning news, 
with the internet dust, like after a shelling, 
again you color the world in two shades of the spectrum —
 the blood sacrifice—red,
and the dirt brown of evil...
Again sleepless nights scythe me down 
like a square across which armies march 
and again I’m climbing into a tank, 
knocking on armor, turning wheels 
turning words into petitions and appeals to keep it from happening:
No passaran! They will not pass!

History, bitch, damn you — 
they pass, they always pass: 
over the corpses of hope, 
trampling dreams —
if not this way, then that, if not straight, then sideways, or crabwise,
maneuvering, capturing territories 
one by one, pushing in 
through cracks and fissures, 
through the sealed and the open, 
turning all to ruin, covered in husks
of lives chewed up and spat out    |
faith shredded...

So that's why Г11 stand
here on this narrow ledge in full armor
including a gas mask,
and wail like a banshee “They will not pass!” 
if only to signal
a rayon of light on a map of a world without borders 
that at least here, at this little dot on the map 
as long as I keep it vigil
with sixty kg of my living body 
they really will not 
be able to pass?

                    Translated from the Ukrainian by Askold Melnyczuk

She is a Ukrainian novelist, poet, essayist. Her works have been translated into several languages. Zabuzhko studied philosophy at the Kyiv University, where she also completed her doctorate in aesthetics in 1987. In 1992, she taught at Penn State University as a visiting writer. Zabuzhko won a Fulbright scholarship in 1994 and taught Ukrainian literature at Harvard and the University of Pittsburgh. To date, Zabuzhko works at the Hryhori Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Some of her received awards are: Angelus Award (2013); Antonovych prize (2009); Shevchenko National Prize (2019); Women in Arts Award (2020).

Published on 10.08.2021

Última actualización: 27/12/2021