Polina Barskova







Manuscript Found by Natasha Rostova During the Fire


I will try to live on earth without you.


I will try to live on earth without you.


I will become any object,

I don’t care what—

I will be this speeding train.

This smoke

or a beautiful gay man laughing in the front seat.


A human body is defenseless

on earth.


It’s a piece of fire-wood.

Ocean water hits it.

Lenin puts it on his official shoulder.


And therefore, in order not to suffer, a human spirit


inside the wind and inside the wood and inside the shoulder of a great dictator.


But I will not be water. I will not be a fire.


I will be an eyelash.

A sponge washing your neck-hairs.

Or a verb, an adjective, I will become. Such a word


slightly lights your cheek.

What happened? Nothing.

Something visited? Nothing.


What was there you cannot whisper.

No smoke without fire, they whisper.

I will be a handful of smoke

over this lost city of Moscow.


I will console any man,

I will sleep with any man,

under the army’s traveling horse carriages.


translated by Ilya Kaminsky











Polina Barskova, associate professor of Russian literature, received her B.A. from St. Petersburg State University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Her scholarly publications include articles on Nabokov, the Bakhtin brothers, early Soviet film, and the aestheticization of historical trauma.

She has also authored six books of poetry in Russian. Professor Barskova is currently working on a project entitled « Petersburg Besieged: Culture of the Aesthetic Opposition. »








Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived to the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government.

Ilya is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004) which won the Whiting Writer’s Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, the Dorset Prize, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship given annually by Poetry magazine.Dancing In Odessa was also named Best Poetry Book of the Year 2004 by ForeWord Magazine. In 2008, Kaminsky was awarded Lannan Foundation’s Literary Fellowship

Poems from his new manuscript,Deaf Republic, were awardedPoetry magazine’s Levinson Prize and the Pushcart Prize.

His anthology of 20th century poetry in translation, Ecco Anthology of International Poetry,  was published by Harper Collins in March, 2010.

His poems have been translated into numerous languages and his books have been published in Holland, Russia, France, Spain. Another translation is forthcoming in China, where his poetry was awarded the Yinchuan International Poetry Prize.

Kaminsky has worked as a law clerk for San Francisco Legal Aid and the National Immigration Law Center.

Currently, he teaches English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.




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