the russian woods

By Ulrike Almut Sandig

Translation Bradley Schmidt

the russian woods were what we didn’t care about, where
we didn’t go, where sheaves of light shot up to
the spruce crowns, red, where the ashes
from cigs and bent steel covered the ditches
along the field. on the outskirts of the village
tables moved and something woke us
late: further on was the end of the path.

no trespassing land mines / heath
barrier clearing moss fringe / crater red deer
empty villages / brick halls heather. there were

caravans of tanks, trucks, dark green tarps, inside
stood forty men, they gazed back
out in rows, all heads shaved. and there was
this one that stood still four hours, in july
in the heat, alone on the crossing, till they rolled
by in thirty machines, and he raised his right

arm: yield to military / till dust and the barking
of dogs and he doesn’t move / thin
boy sunset / the centre strips green. they’d always

been there and sometimes broke slats
from the fence and sliced off cabbage and
shot the hens. whoever was full up
went on to the fish pond, to the sun, and swapped
badges with children, red and sickle for
friendship. whoever did that didn’t come back for
a long time. we waited in vain.

 

Original © Ulrike Almut Sandig
Translation © Bradley Schmidt