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моя квартира / survival / השרדות / my apartment
I live upon a cosmic formation
conventionally called “Earth”
in the part of it designated on the map as “Asia”
The state is called “Israel” (for the time being)
The weather is wintry, rainless and sunny –
רע לחקלאות אך טוב לכביסה
bad for the crops but good for laundry
The city is Jerusalem
The street is central
The house has been standing some eighty years
and will probably endure for my lifetime
The apartment – שני חדרים וחצי
две с половиной комнаты
two and a half rooms
(half a room . . . two walls?)
 
Throughout the apartment’s atmosphere
there’re dispersed invisibly
three of my possessions, to me especially dear:
 
the perfect Russian language which I received at birth
the acquired English language, for whatever it’s worth
and the last but not the least
the ancient tongue of a little tribe in the Middle East
 
The first two are still quite youthful and crude
their chances of survival are definitely good
The third one is a very special case
Under the God’s protection
it has already managed one resurrection
cantankerous and clever
it arose from oblivion as lively as ever
(Of other languages there are just some crumbs
I use them here and there as it comes)
 
In the apartment there are:
 
Walls, painted white
(underneath there are eight coats of various old paints
but they’re now out of sight)
The walls define my life-space
 
Ceiling, white, from which are hanging light fixtures
по-русски лампы, מנורות בעברית,
in other languages other names
but all have lampshades, all are shining –
my nightly haven of light
Electricity, I hope, will also suffice
for my lifetime
 
In the larger room there is a sofa-bed
made in my current fatherland
relatively new, as yet no cause of concern
Guests sleep on it when there are some
and when they don’t come
unironed laundry lies on it
as well as yesterday’s sheets with printed text
the so-called news
(All the names are highly misleading
What’s this with “fatherland”?
My father never lived here
neither did my mother
What’s this  “laundry”?
Just some dry jeans and shirts
And as to the yesterday’s “news”
they belong to a different era
Yet all these things are there)
 
At the left-side wall there stands a cupboard
at the right-side, a chest of drawers
or vice-versa, זה לא משנה
just as the space may afford
at the left side, a chest of drawers
and at the right side, a cupboard
 
The cupboard. My only Moscow heritage
the dwelling of memories from my earliest age
(I remember that I used to remember
though I don’t remember any longer:
smells of delicacies from before the war
in the depth of starved shelves
patches of rainbow on faceted little windows
foretaste of a life long and mysterious)
A venerable thing and well used
all its joints are loose and bruised
הרי הוא לא עשוי מאבן
already it moans and groans
חורק ומתלונן to high heaven  
and soon will ask to be excused
 
The chest of drawers. A totally different story
Not a sigh from it, not a squeak or a creak
Bright, polished, and sleek
it’s a true antique, un objet historique
France, une siècle ancienne, Louis quelconque
This one (the chest, not the king) has lived long
and is still going strong
The things that were hidden in those drawers!
The times that were running by!
Enfuyez-vous aux Flandres, o Duc de Ligne
Enfuyez-vous aux Flandres, mon Duc
Escape to Flanders o duke de Ligne
Run, rabbit, run!
Today they also hide a thing or two
and some kind of time is running by, too
time of a certain sort
is running around and back and forth
A collection piece (the chest, not the time)
If ever I fall into a moneyless hell
This is the thing to sell
 
Butt-end to the wall stands a big dining table
made in Sweden
(he liked solid furniture)
A smooth clear rectangular surface
complete in its wooden perfection –
what is the tablecloth to it, and plates, and cups?
The table looks sturdy. But it’s made in our times
and so inevitably bears all the signs
of somebody’s sloppiness, somebody’s haste
somebody’s ambitions gone to waste
somebody’s anxiety, somebody’s worry
For my beautiful table I do feel sorry
Even though its legs look stable and thick
its end, I’m afraid, will be rather quick
 
On the chest of drawers and on the cupboard
there are lots
of flowerpots
my connection to nature
קשר הדוק וממושך –
квартира моя утопает в цветах
The plants, though they often get sick with virus
and are eaten by aphids
will survive, in one form or another
as well as aphids and viruses
 
Books, the spiritual sphere
the safe refuge of an intellectual profiteer
(o you, bookworms, буквоеды
 (זוללני הידע
I have bookshelves in the entrance hall
and in the sitting room
and in the bedroom
and in the bathroom
(reading in the bathroom –
double-barrelled action:
emptying the bowels
stuffing the head)
and in the storeroom
and in the attic
Вот книжек жаль
жалко мне книжек, ממש חבל
A book is my favourite pet
its fate makes me really and truly upset
The books will probably be the first to go
от них не останется ничего
Books
the decorative element
of my dwelling space
won't be able to win the race
 
The icebox. Solitude’s nighttime consolation
Кому смех, кому בכי and tears
For some just a cause for jeers
for others diets and desolation
Ah food, nutriment, alimentation
both without you and with you –
perdition and damnation
 
The way to woman’s heart lies through her stomach
the smaller the stomach the shorter the way
Calm down, passions and emotions
stop crying, my anxious heart
here, take a bite and shut up
 
Any problem is soluble, provided
there’s a big enough plastic bag (Tom Stoppard)
Plastic bags full of edible things
עוד שקית ועוד שקית ועוד שקית
These bags are completely transparent
and can face the future with confidence and joy
for these time won’t destroy
 
Cookware and tableware
pots, pans, mugs, cups, glasses, and plates
Their existence is tedious and poor
But don’t be sad, things my dear mates
I know each one of you, I use each one –
in the process of satisfying hunger and thirst –
not just once, not twice or thrice
but day in day out
יום-יום, שעה-שעה
год за годом, день за днем
 
A woman lives in my apartment
(I live there alone)
On chairs, on tables, on the floor and in the wardrobe
there're lying and hanging items of her clothing
It seems to her that in a new dress
she will become a new person, no less
not just fresher and more attractive –
не просто свежее, нарядней и красивей
גברת מסודרת בבגד אטרקטיבי –
but a totally different person
I do not ask what for and why
she wants it and needs it, I simply buy
still more and more coverings for her body
even though her body is safely covered
by a solid crust of years
These things do not live long
Anyway, I don’t wish them a long life
 
The bed. So many memories tender
However, the secrets it keeps in its chest
are so common that it’s no wonder
it doesn’t reveal them, they’re of no interest
No one's there to say to: remember?
not a playground but a sleeping chamber
Теперь в этой постели, пустой и одинокой
я сплю с теплой кошкой или с собакой
Today it’s so cold and so empty that
I can’t sleep in it without a doggie or a cat
 
Yes my things
yes my sisters and brothers things
Even though you too are mortal
yet it’s hard to compare
your achievements and ours
באמנות ההשרדות
in the art of survival
в искусстве выживания
 
Records, record-player, cassettes, discman, CDs
music
Paintings, etchings, figurines, photos
art
Two other companions
of the faithful bearer of culture
Such a joy it is to hear them and to see
I will remember even in my grave
These things are durable and brave
and since ars longa, though vita  brevis
they will survive forever
 
Computer. What a pity I was born so early
On the screen in front of me there's unfurling
my future (however, not mine any longer)
Just to press the right keys
to give the right commands
 
It was a great program
wonderfully user-friendly
but either there was some original error
הטעות לעולם חוזרת))
or some virus got in on the way
or I myself gave wrong commands
(garbage in garbage out)
or I forgot the password –
out of a friendly one it turned into
a chaotic chain of malicious messages
running through the screen faster and faster
and soon the bewildered computer
will ping, ring, blink
will say: illegal command parameter
and the Great Programmer
will erase this program from memory
 
Things! My near, my dear, my precious
what would I do without you
Only you and these four walls
defend me against the cold
of the outside world
Do not perish! Be, live
stand, lie, collect dust, serve
preserve my living soul
 
This composition has no moral message
neither has it a cognitive one
This is just a testimony:
I saw all these things vividly
I touched them all lovingly
Sooner or later they’ll be no more
(I'll go way before)
 
זוהי עדות
שהם היו בעולם
גם אני הייתי
 
Это свидетельство
их пребывания на земле
Также и моего
 
This is a testimony
to their having been
Also to mine
 

 
 
 
 

Editor's Note: Julia Wiener translates her poetry from Russian into Hebrew and English. The meaning of all Hebrew and Russian expressions is incorporated in the English text.