Matvei Yankelevich

Lit-Mag #40 – Expatriations:  The expat edition

Two Poems

excerpt from “After Time” (a work in process)

The shrine is simple: a
few photographs, some
personal effects. Who
was the deceased – no
one really knows. Was
love returned by him
to those that felt it due,
or wasted on the few
who wouldn’t know, on fields
of snow, mutts that walked
with him, woods through which
they walked, the fat bend
of flat rivers.
The poem’s hungry:
dark reflection on the snow –
how hawks plate the wind
over a field in winter, empty
now that it’s written out, now
that a rhythm’s begun: Sky
troubling the toes, singing
those songs. To work
with language and not
mean. Elegy are you a mono-
logue, leggy or conversant
in shadows? I have my
suspicions that the word
enough is not enough.
“Come back to me,” first
encounter – would be nice
to see you again. It’s funny,
you haven’t changed a bit.
The curls are slacker or
the time runs faster, flashing
coming away from the shingled
roof. There’s the tree it has
treeness, a kind of woody quality
as it belongs to forest words.
The trace of a bird’s beak on
the snow embarrassing the bark.
Crossed out graffiti: Education
for all. Our nation has native
blood. I’m stuck on a dime
a tenth of whole, a moment
in the stocking on your leg
snagled trellis, of peripheral
glance. I look around. He says:
I look around and around.
The mouse mounts a retreat.
The ashtray begs to differ from
every other. I drop a little mess
of distracted matter. Headless
flight. Christmas ornaments
make do. The policeman
looks around – everything’s winter.
He’d like to communicate his
tragedy in a parking ticket:
Club against windshield – internal
error of the soul. Trains
depart, never touching
the rail they loved. Chairs
for tables pine. Tissue paper
collaborates willingly softening
the fall, warming up a blank
note – a comma forming
on the cat’s forehead, a comma
hangs over us. We are dying to
know ourselves. When’ll the fake
fox enter the real life
of underwater foxes. A sock on
the wrong foot, golden buttons
in the distant future like flares
in a bowl of night. Tomorrow
I can pick up a piece
of the pieces and place them
in a flux machine, turned
inside out to relax
science, to solace the
policemen on the corner
of my cloak of indivisibility.
Trim me, light, trick me
away from a triple trace
so that the fly-shit on the
windowpane might gleam
in the rays of divine hydrogen:
Thus the world believes itself
whole – but faith is nesting
on a green bough. Tell it to fly.


I had the best little caramel fudge
in Novy Sad with my espresso.
A good cappuccino later in the square.
Belgrade: several good coffees a day
not spectacular always, but good.
I feel fat from the whole bottle
of buttermilk and the horn of bread
and the banana I had at noon.

Writing is, as you can see, rather
superfluous to my situation. It’s
a last resort to see if something
singular is going on in the cafe,
in the square, on the pedestrian
street in the middle of Belgrade.
One can’t begin to imagine that

other cities are out of bed and
doing things all over the place.
And the villages… the towns…
Someone gestures – a kind of
yawn, a sip of coffee – not hot
enough – a drag on a cigarette.
Not to mention work… Well, who
knows. That’s not saying enough.

There’s no tension, except
for every move – secondary –
and self-conscious. Tension
between action & idea, between
thought & expression. Tension
between shoulder blades. Fingers
holding the pen. Repetition.

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