Sergey Gandlevsky, translated by Philip Metres


"Find the hunter." It's a visual puzzle:
Is the tree an elm or an ash?
Rifle, game bag, Tyrolean cap
All form an unbroken knot.

Now aim the lamp at the drawing,
Shift your angle of vision a little
So trophies, small rifle, cartridge pouch
Suddenly emerge from shadow.

Instantly invented by paper:
Part lunatic, part aesthete,
Good guy, thief on the loose—
Get lost, now disappear!

The drawing, again unclear.
But something existed—from the outskirts
The clack of train tracks, was it elm or ash—
Something boundless, blind from tears,

Shining in a village puddle,
Under the old-fashioned din of ravens.
If my life were somehow better
It wouldn't be mine.


An odd paradox: hunting for the hunter. In this poem, Russian poet Sergey Gandlevsky provides a good example of how ekphrasis is often self-portraiture. Translating Gandlevsky has been for me a kind of "hunting the hunter," each thicket of cyrillic only slowly revealing some inner clearing, some cold pond reflecting a fragment of the sky.