The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2023

All Issues
MAY 2023 Issue


Sleep, my loving, my living, my
Head of gol den wool.
A flier flits and floats on high.
Springs are in the room.

Seep slo wly slee pily sno wy days,
              Open the door—and it’s summer.
Whist ling in the win dow, winter sows
              Days through a ca len dar co lan der.

May only hor ses ten der and blue
Bear you to sleepy land.
Sleep, my li ving son, curled in the sun’s
Open palm of the hand.



The Sands. Osnova. Stations.
Long days of locomotive
Sleep slip. And now:
Seconds. White foliage from the sky
Falls over the forest.
Like salt it lies
On the hillocks. Blows. Sows. Goes.
Past the black horns of the ash
And the hedged, bristling spines
Of branching pines. A dream—son?
No son, but laughter, smikh,
No smikh but smile, osmikh,
Or rather snih. Snow. There it falls now:


The houndtrain ran running for the forest line,
Clink-clanked and coiled days of smoke,
Yawned and was gone behind the forest line,
Like the sound not sounded in a word.

Past fields’ folding screen and the Sanhedrin of snows
The train lullabied your lolling body.
You sighed once more and fell asleep. The shores
Sounded. The sea covered you.

You did not hear the word across the winter window,
Its drone of an unbelievable unbounded oboe
Rising from a grove near Bryansk
Like the pining of a horse before a battle in a pine forest.

It flowed over the snows. It took forests by storm.
The ground resounded with artillery.
It saw the sea. But then—you would not sound it.
And so it fell down.

Now every day I stand it up against a gray wall.
I shoot at it but I can’t kill it.
It fills out like a human puppy
And weeps and laughs and wants to be alive.


That is the Raincity, cold and green,
Over the sea that daily seeks to leave it
For good, and sets the sail of fog,
Bids its adieux, then loses all decorum
Like a hysterical heroine of historical fiction,
Falling upon the granite fountain steps,
Laving spectator shoes with salty spit.

Filled to the rim with cocoa and with coffee,
Like a Dutch steamer it inhales and exhales,
That’s registered in Rouen by the book:
So, washed with rain, its colors bright and clear,
The Raincity goes docking its boulevards
By churches and municipal buildings. Porters
Push by importunately, carrying faiths and creeds.

That is the Raincity under the sail of fog
Hid from the heat of sun, the heave of wind;
In cold perpetual despondency
It sits at calculation of percentages,
And casts up fancy-swollen customs fees
Until the queer day that shall expunge it
From the register of eastern revolutions.



Eugene Ostashevsky

Eugene Ostashevsky is the author of, most recently, The Feeling Sonnets, a poetry collection about the effects of a non-native language on emotions, parenting, and identity.

Maik Yohansen

Maik Yohansen (1895-1937), or else Mike Johansen, was a Ukrainian modernist poet and fiction writer from Kharkiv. Although his high school friends became Russian-language Ukrainian Futurists, he deliberately turned to Ukrainian for his working language. His carefully chiseled poetry displays a mastery of phonetic organization and paronomasia. His erudite and ironic novel, Dr. Leonardo’s Journey to Sloboda Switzerland with His Future Lover, the Beautiful Alcesta (1928), is a playful metaliterary deconstruction of narrative conventions. Translator of Edgar Allen Po and Shakespeare’s Othello, he collaborated with the avant-garde theater of Les Kurbas and co-wrote Oleksander Dovzhenko’s silent film Zvenyhora. Yohansen was arrested and shot in 1937, four days after Semenko, in a mass purge of Ukrainian-language writers.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2023

All Issues