I brought mum and dad an old quilt –
It’s nice, only it came out of the wash with funny splodges on it.
They can stick it on the sofa bed out at the allotment.
“We’ll finally throw that old mattress out,” dad said happily.
It was late when I got to Tagil, already dark.
I found a shop and bought a watermelon, plums, grapes.
Mum wanted fruit. Then I waited an age for the bus, freezing:
Quilt in my left hand, fruit in my right.
They were expecting me: they’d baked pies, stewed chicken.
They were made up with the watermelon. Everyone was early to bed, stuffed.
It was October after all – so much darkness makes you sleepy.
In the morning I ate more pies, chicken,
Tried watching TV, like when I was a kid.
Then mum and dad started packing that kid a food bag:
Half a bucket of potatoes, beetroot, carrots, jam – all home-grown.
And off I went. As I stepped outside,
Dad waved from the balcony, mum from the kitchen window.
It was a Sunday: a crystal calm
Rang out, like grandma’s vase, where mum keeps her buttons now.
Behind our house the forest – conifers, ski tracks, mushrooms – held its peace.
“Make sure you call us when you’re home!” shouted dad,
Once I’d crossed the threshold. “Will do,” I shouted back.
We never say I love you.
It’s a cringey, tacky thing to say. And what’s the point?
We weren’t brought up that way.
Here are my words: a quilt, carried 140 kilometers,
When I’d just as well have thrown it out, a watermelon, bought in darkness,
When I barely even had the energy to drag the stupid quilt around.
Here are theirs: half a bucket of potatoes, three jars of jam.
I didn’t take the fourth. Said no to the bag of onions as well.
They got me to take the garlic though. Garlic doesn’t weigh much, after all.
Translation from the Russian
Editorial note: From the collection Два ее единственных платья (Новое литературное обозрение, 2020