“Like a Bow on a Precious Package”: Julia Nemirovskaya’s Object Poems


Trans-Layers (2010), by Sakir Gökcebag

At the end of December, just before New Year’s, I posted my translation of a poem by Julia Nemirovskaya, whose work I’ve shared before, and today I have the pleasure of delivering three more gifts from the poet’s pen. There is a venerable history behind the genre of “object poems,” or Dinggedichte; many brilliant poets, from Rilke to the Martian school, have inspired readers to look at everyday items with fresh eyes. Yet I believe Julia manages to find her way into the inner life of things with unparalleled sensitivity and to render that life with unparalleled poignancy. I’m very grateful to the chief editor of the new journal MumberMag, Harry Leeds, and to the poet D.A. Powell, who edited its inaugural poetry section, for selecting three of Julia’s vivid objects for the first issue. You can now read “Lamp,” “Little Box,” and “Toilet Paper” on the journal’s website, but I’ll also offer the last of these here — since its subject has lately been in such high demand.

Toilet Paper

to be a papier-mâché ballerina, a kerchief,
a statue’s white skin,
to unroll
like a bandage
and lie down like a flower,
like a bow on a precious package.

Kin to napkin and book, although
few acknowledge the bond;
with its tender flesh gone,
its skeleton-tube is exposed.

Tossed among the glass-eyed envelopes
by a hand
that is empty and mortal,
stiff-sleeved and yellow-skinned.

Туалетная бумага

Балериной бумажной, носовым платком,
Кожей статуи в парке,
И лечь цветком,
Бантом на подарке.

Родня салфетке и книге, хоть
Родства никто не признает.
Исчезает ее нежная плоть
Скелет-трубочка вылезает.

Туда где пустые в бельмах конверты,
Бросает ее рука
Из желтой кожи, пустая, смертная,
Картонный задрав рукав.

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