Three Sonnets for Three Eras


a century plus ago’s no yesteryear’s
snow watch out for speedsters wheeling by like mad
long evenings kerosene and candlelit
are blinking their eyes as they well with tears

greeting the electrical age with hurrays
old steam machinery is trembling in its belts
shadowy monsters prowl the nights with stealth
glass beads and tinsel mark the winter days

the domino path is edging gently further
the purrer falls asleep the backyard blackens
and in the pub the gypsy song grows louder

the necklace all four rows of gold coins jangles
one still lit window’s visible from some angles
a library is nurturing a bomber


they’ll enter your name in a well-known catalogue
and deftly amputate your soul
as with a dental surgeon’s hard cool tool
a flushed redolent lump or a pink fog

or drive a steel-heeled army boot into
your ribs and groin to make
you cute pettable and obedient
or sweet and spongy like a cake

or like a treacly pinch of divine dust
or disused flesh drained of its life and lust
or a white sea sail sagging over hills

or the proverbial skull with punctured eyebrows
that slips scalded by heaven’s rain and towers
over graveyards of fish and sunken ships


as to the tyrant that we’re living under
he isn’t one of the bloodthirstiest
but is rapacious vicious merciless
and overcome with delusions of grandeur

there’s no escape to cairo or zurbagan
and though my tastes are broad i beg your pardon
for feeling confident that baden baden
is more enticing than say magadan

while with the internet it now appears
it matters little if these walls have ears
true we may yet live to see times of change

but our reality remains much stranger
than g marconi could have predicted surely

it would be sad to peg out prematurely

Translated from the Russian by Philip Nikolayev


Arkady Shtypel was born in 1944 in the city of Kattakurgan in Samarkand and writes in Russian and Ukrainian. In 1965, he was expelled from university for his literary activity on charges of formalism, deception, Zionism and Ukrainian nationalism. His first publication was in 1989 in the anthology of the poetic underground, Citizens of the Night. The author of four books of poems and numerous literary-critical publications, Shtypel was winner of the Moscow Slam 2011 Superfinal. He is translated into German, English, Ukrainian


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