by Serhiy Zhadan, 2002

This happened some fifteen years ago, if I’m not mistaken.
Right here, you know, on the next street, there’s a tall building
where they rent out rooms,
well, several Chinese lived there then and, it turned out, they were trafficking drugs in their own stomachs
like some unseen heavenly caviar, capable of finally destroying this rotten civilization.

These rooms were mostly rented out by taxi drivers and charlatans,
as well as aeronauts, deprived of their heavenly apparatus, who always made coffee in the kitchen
and listened to jazz radio stations
till things would start to glow with a bright light without casting shadows
while former rugby players drank beer and smoked camels as they played cards and talked about their damned rugby.

But something went wrong with the Chinese business, much was written about this later,
you know how it is: one day the split wasn’t right – and that was it,
so they had this terrible shoot out right there in the back yard,
scaring rats into the basement and birds into the heavens.

I stop in there, once in a while; I make a little detour on my way home,
I look up at the fire escapes and see the sky in which, if you think about it,
there’s nothing but sky,
and you know, sometimes it seems to me that people really die
because their hearts stop out of love for this
strange-strange fantastic world.

translated from the Ukrainian by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps

zhad16.doc 6/21/06

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