"Still-life with a Sink, a Glass Shelf and a Window," "St. Petersburg Military March," and "Ritual. Before Snow"

Still-life with a Sink, a Glass Shelf and a Window

The day is bright, though sunless
— just peek into the bathroom—
isn’t it fine, this cut-glass light?
The deck of blades slides
    face-first into the glass shelf –
            the sparkling tongue
of a glacier, an avalanche.
                  But here, right in the corner,
so near
down in that burrow behind the mirror
in the gloaming over the sink’s abyss —
seven years gone unnoticed,
their wooden dull horizon.
Here, in the back, there is a bottle,
almost full –
the blue
               Gillette (to open
cautiously, smell, close the cap),
lies the toothpaste tube, neck twisted,
             as if it’s leaning for a chat down from a berth bed,
its dried-out, buckling
           choking collar
– but where’s that screw-on cap
   rolling so nimbly
             under the toilet tank?




from In Absentia



St. Petersburg Military March

And what we were left with
is the rutted
border decay
a grimly-imperial
unwavering obdurate ways.
Smoke pillars
spiraling upwards,
decked cards
of courtyards laid low,
Kraft’s old chocolate factory
crumbling to bits
on the snow.
Slag heaps lit up
by the streetlamps –
polished up
shining hard,
the city snow packed, speckled,
but there’s an arch to the yard.
This corner,
an old woman’s elbow –
its anonymous bricks haven’t thrived, 
pissed on and spat on
and shattered,
yet the arch over them is alive.




Previously published in The Naked World (MadHat Press, 2022)



Ritual. Before Snow

At the Jewish cemetery – no pebble to be found
all picked up and carried off
onto its chessboard grounds.
I search along
the edge of its grey lawn
and find an asphalt wedge
with an embedded stray
sliver –
can’t pick it out, can’t break it off –
I carry it with the forbidden flowers
to see you, as I had done in Newark –
for tea, and always staying late.
Outside, the day’s as dark
as it had started, twinned by the window,
the headlights glow
as if wrapped in cellophane.
I’m driving home,
I’ll wash my hands, get warm.
New Jersey earth’s forlorn
about to break down
into black and white fields.



Previously published in The Naked World (MadHat Press, 2022)



Irina Mashinski

Irina Mashinski was born and raised in Moscow. She graduated from Moscow University, where she studied theory of landscape and completed her PhD in paleoclimatology. In 1991, she emigrated to the United States, where she taught high school mathematics as well as literature, history, and meteorology at several universities. Mashinski is the author The Naked World (MadHat Press, 2022) and of eleven books of poetry and essays in Russian. She is co-editor, with Robert Chandler and Boris Dralyuk, of The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (Penguin Classics, 2015) and of Cardinal Points, the journal of Brown University’s Slavic Department. Her work has been translated into several languages and has appeared in journals and anthologies both in the US and internationally. Her second English book, Giornata (Červená Barva Press), is forthcoming in the fall of 2022. Website: http://www.irinamashinski.com. Irina recommends Nova Ukraine.

Maria Bloshteyn

Maria Bloshteyn’s main scholarly interests lie in the field of literary and cultural exchange between Russia and the United States. She is the author of The Making of a Counter-Culture Icon: Henry Miller’s Dostoevsky (University of Toronto Press, 2007), the translator of Alexander Galich’s Dress Rehearsal: A Story in Four Acts and Five Chapters (Slavica, 2009) and Anton Chekhov’s The Prank (NYRB Classics, 2015)and the editor of Russia is Burning: Poems of the Great Patriotic War (Smokestack Books, 2020).  Her translations have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (Penguin Classics, 2015).


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Friday, September 23, 2022 - 12:51