Saturday, October 15, 2011

Aimless Reading: The O's, Part 12 (Eugene Ostashevsky)

Iterature by Michael_Kelleher
Iterature, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.
Ostashevsky, Eugene

Given to me by the publisher, Matvei Yankelevich of UDP, when he came to Buffalo for a reading a few years back. It's one of the more entertaining books of poetry I've read in the past few years. It has a kind of wry, philosophical wit -- and the poems rhyme! I just opened it again this morning, five years after it was given to me, and re-discovered the pleasure of reading these poems.

Here's the opener:

from Iterature

from The Gangster Who Lost His "G"


structaque sunt nostris barbara verba modis

I used to think of myself as just another Ovid
somewhere in Romania sporting a Mogen-David,

racking the local parlance to make it sigh on
Jah! How well I remember Zion.

My image changed when I got a visa
only to declare there really is no

Zion--that whether rhinos course by or reindeer,
it's just varying degrees of Romania.

I turned bilingual. Romanians claimed
I had two characters, two lives, two brains.

Although they say two is more than one cranium
it's half as great if both be in Romania.

Then I found myself with no native tongue,
only two prosthetics to flap among

teeth & gums, or sitting below the palate
like in a cockpit two pilots.

I wore my jeans loose & used the word stoopid.
I used to have love but I don't know where I put it.

All my flats turned to kennels.
My only pets were my pack of Camels,

whose caravans filed under the sun
of my soul's desert––one by one,

made them go up in smoke. My sole amenity
was to point at them & say All is vanity!

That, too, my dear, is another bubble.
In most of the cases, one's only trouble

is oneself––so stick up two fingers over your
head before the mirror in the corridor.

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