—translated by Rebecca Bella Wangh and Katya Nanson



equate the bayonet to pen

and send off to Peru


a fighter brings Gospel

fit for non-combat


like a Colombian cartel

like a Molotov cocktail


crash through the fearful2

get over the border


where Vallejo Cesar

uncovered sesame 


and on the stone thus

up rose threedy-nine villages


he went down in a mineshaft

went off on a bender




Osip raspy

Arkhip husky3

Russian Hebrew

burns like strong brew


at the window a little bird

sings they’ve all gone to war


and this Yosif4 of ours

asks for thicker soup


guards and thieves

hail to him


for ochre and bronze 

don’t suffer death


off flies the black herald5

a dig at his plot




equate the bayonet to pen

no spewing caviar


from the wide shalwar

Bolivar carries double6


and like slanting rain

walks with sickle friend and chief





1 Chapter title in Alfred Doblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929). Note from the poet: "The general pattern of the poem is folk ritual (lamentation) poetry which sounds, from our modern point of view, a bit absurd because its subject matter holds together only by very formal acoustic effects (rhyme, sound, and other structural parallelism). This formal principle—also the principle of the tongue twister or proverb—I take to extremes, adding intertextuality and contamination to it.

2 Based on a section in Mayakovsky's 150,000,000: "Bullets thicker! / Through the fearful! / Run through the thick of it / Crash, a pistol!"

3 From a Russian tongue twister. "Osip" suggests Osip Mandelstam.

4 Ambiguous reference to both Osip Mandelstam (born Yosif) and Joseph (Yosif) Stalin.

5 A reference to Cesar Vallejo's first book Los Heraldos Negros (1918).

6 Contradicting "Bolivar cannot carry double" in O'Henry's short story "The Roads We Take." In the story, Bolivar is a horse; here it is also a reference to Simôn Bolivar.

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