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The Serbian girl crosses the street

avoiding the autumn bazaar and its hanging merchandise

she notices, that this fall there's plenty of gold in the kerchiefs and vegetables -

the warm onion is so golden;

there's a lot of light in the restaurants

where portraits of Franz Joseph

hang on the walls.


The warmth of this autumn touches you too

and so does this young woman who searches for something in her back pack,

pulling out her phone and pencils and placing them on the table;

you'll have your winter yet

you'll have your dreams

but the sky grows heavier every autumn

and the devil

grabs sinners

like sugar plums

in brightly colored wrappers.


Bitter Slavic syntagmas;

she tells you she bought envelopes in the tobacco store,

and walked to the subway

and the doves, flew down and beat against her like rain;

because of her tale, no one notices the sun has set,

they only notice that her cheeks

have grown somewhat darker.


Try to explain to her,

that if you don't collect

the autumn clocks in time

they simply grow over-ripe and squirt

juice on your clothes and hands 

which later attract bees

that pierce their stingers

straight into your heart.





Cleaning Ladies In The Corridors



The old cleaning ladies in the corridors

slowly scrape the floors, like ship decks;

do you hear, they're whispering about something in the stairway,

fearfully hugging the walls,

using long hooks they fish out of the water

rats and bitter dreams.


The rooms all round are filled with shadows,

like battleships with coal;

the cleaning ladies in the corridors

scrape the scales with sharp knives,

shoving huge needles into the morning sun;

the end of autumn approaches

and the skies are so dark, as if someone's piled up

cut off chicken heads

and black roses.


When they wash off the blood

they gather at the train station, drink heated wine

and talk about

how today fish lose their way in the Danube

and can't swim into the shallows

without the help of night lanterns

on ships,

without voices from the shore,

without openings and tunnels

in the damned ice.



Translated from the Ukrainian  by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps