“mama is reading a history of russian death . . .”

An illustration replicating Orthodox Catholic iconography but the central is a tiny, shrunken figure
Linor Goralik, The Descent of Christ into Mariupol (2022), black cardboard, gold and red paper, red thread, black watercolor, furniture fittings / Courtesy of the artist / linorgoralik.com

mama is reading a history of russian death
I’m reading Paul B. Preciado
we’re both preparing to transition

at which stage do we turn the page

mama it’s not black and white
we’re the bad guys, we’re fools
it’s the phantoms in the kitchen
circling around your foot

there goes granny with her horns
here comes that faceless aunt
little people, common folk
read that tale to the end

breathe into the balmy wind
save it for a rainy day
one white night a dirty phantom
with the lilacs had his way

not at all white, death burns there
not at all bare, life stands there

I do not recognize this fatal fare
this taste of Pushkin in my mouth

Translation from the Russian

Born in 1975 in Soviet Ukraine, Linor Goralik is an artist, writer, and poet who lives in Israel and addresses Russian-speaking audiences across the world. In 2022 she began to produce a series called A Few Icons about the War, including these works after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. In 2022 Goralik founded the internet journal ROAR: Russian Oppositional Arts Review, for which she serves as chief editor.

Konstantin Shavlovsky is a poet, cinema critic, publisher, curator, and the founder/executive manager of the Saint Petersburg bookstore Word Order. He has worked as an editor for Seance magazine, published extensively on Russian cinema, and curated multiple interdisciplinary cinema projects. He is the author of two books of poetry and resides in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Polina Barskova is a poet and scholar who teaches Russian literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is author of twelve collections of poetry and two books of prose in Russian as well as of the monograph Besieged Leningrad: Aesthetic Responses to Urban Disaster (2017). Her recent creative nonfiction collection, Living Pictures (2022), was awarded the Andrei Bely Prize. Her collections of poetry in English translation include This Lamentable City, The Zoo in Winter, Relocations, and, most recently, Air Raid.

D. Brian Kim is a scholar of nineteenth-century Russian literature and the theory and practice of literary translation and cultural exchange. He teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

Eugene Ostashevsky is the author, most recently, of The Feeling Sonnets (2022). As a translator of experimental literature in Russian, he has worked on futurism, the OBERIU group, and contemporary poetry, as well as Lucky Breaks, by Yevgenia Belorusets (2022).

Bela Shayevich is a Soviet-American writer and translator.

Elaine Wilson is a writer, literary translator, language instructor, and PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages at Columbia University. She lives in New York City.