Jean Day
from The I and the You


The Irrational

For Nadezhda Kondakova and Jukka Maalinen

Aren't we all autodidacts?
The nature of pleasure is its lack of completion
Someone bring taxis to Finland Station!
You, grasshopper, you are so sexual
and me, entirely colloquial
For the private reveals nothing
but the dense unstable light of thought
And the word for them, a thing for us, floats
coolly ripped in three
while for A. the wife may disappear
in any normal spin
for the ether is full of its own astronomy

Naked at midnight
rational at last
I break the bands
to quiet the cackle
of my production from your head, my friend!
If I had a totem it would be a rock
and if I had a work it would be a song
None of the rocks are unspoken for
open to light from above

Yet we do not always appear in the company of innovators
A businessman has fallen through the glass of the bar
It is everyone's business to translate
B. and C. converse in Monk tunes
E., F., and G. haggle and smoke
The telephone snitches
H. sits quietly by her ideas

The moment has almost already passed
A first glimpse, filmy sun, just as red
draws the evening in
ends a nap, voices
in all my ears
The nature of pleasure is its beak of confusion
after the street, in a silent drone, toward a rumor of
someone else's good
I make it up as I dwindle, shoes into sandals, sandals
into wood, then before
the plow
It is said we will go to Pushkin tomorrow
My friends we will suffer
our heads in brown bags
and without music, bread, or salt, using words as mere noises
our own names heavy in the mouth
on the books
in the street
When I was a schoolboy
the meaning of music itself subverted the horn
like the way we show our teeth when we smile, noticing
the gap-toothed men are Ukrainians
"I" recedes into its own logic, a perspective drawing
of the paths of our walking ids
I can't hear you over the roar of drunken ids
I sleep for awhile
A brown water surrounds me

In TV melodramas the sexual fantasies of youth collapse
into the horror of the purges
(from nowhere, like us, all interested in the same dress)
No sir. This is just a pile of blankets
And out there, something will be built
sometime this century, not today
Did you see L's big hands?
In fact none of us sleep, smoking instead, gazing
at the Fontanka from the bar—
Is that a factory or a hotel? Who rode that
horse-poet? Her unsocialist loneliness
got her
But it is a dead city, dead

Listening, and then I speak
Often we recall the old country. For them I am only
a Russian, but here it can be like a photograph
posed and understood in psychological terms. It's nothing
He stole something. Equivocal the mind
as the impolite handshake lingers. For I am weak
and the sun casts a shadow over my fingers
at the machine. I am small
and significant in my passion, a grasshopper
Often I recall the days of my friends
consubstantial with me
on bus no. 5
fattening as we pass each factory and prison, lighting up
as we recognize "repair."
And from myself to be taken, the concept of which my friends
cannot have, is the extreme of both pleasure and torture
object of the whale's gaze
We must be a little bit "fatigated" by the brain
I think
or we are giants who, having met, walk into a cloud
Then, we should have bigger plans

J. holds the knife and fork as though she herself
were the dish. There is no abstract language
for theories of knowledge
and the everyday passing of our time as happily and agreeably
as possible
Then we rush through the state, a film of grime
the shifting crowd
spirit soul and breath, just as flavors are sweet or bitter ...
It was in my dream I floated above you, creative
(as behavior goes) however instantly the word
might be required. Yet the word was not available when
we set our sights, stood
like the Czar's statuary on rooftops
desperate to break
into song. "Destiny? I laugh at it
As for men ... !" And the crowd feigning sleep
The pattern is permanently disturbed
the memoir artificially organized
reality, senseless
And so, a dirty doorway opens suddenly on a "view"
jump cuts the "stroll" as they say
For us this is not a city but a monument;
our friends, beings in time

I am not myself the last socialist
All over Europe, women
like grasshoppers—every day I would receive such complaints
and every day translate I am no trouble
but nevertheless exiled. What's inside a coat?
a coup
We are never not foreign
and put on our binoculars. Pleasure
outweighs the horror of our concept of everything, or that is the
question. "Of course you have noticed our newspapers
reprint absolutely no comment on our American confusion"
but as dreamers we reproduce our own
work, own the means of
the frame, which is time, but she has her own butter
in her head. K. asks, "Mother, must I keep on
dancing?" "Let's go up backwards
and see what we look like" L. replies
My perverted feeling of privacy, of the horizontality
of rain, comes into play in this world we create to write
—off in the snow bare-chested
with twelve white huskies
or thereabouts. Authenticity? M.'s pants
say "Bitume Story." When I met you I walked
into a cloud, but then something is always named
something. And finally it sees you

The nature of humans is to have left something out
in the world, yet we do not always appear
in full abstraction
In fact, the light is never perfect
but what is stronger than light, etc.?
The strange happy man, following us on the metro, became
hairier and even more lovable as we hurried on ahead
and the intellectual had become his own character, this time
a nightmare. The first secretary, then
is certainly a prince in his governmental duties
To him we are all business
Fresh off the tree
like a wave surely reaching
the most obscure localities
where pitiably the translator, too, waits in line
I will fetch my raft from wherever we have gotten to
in the things that last but are not separate
We are our own principles

We will walk for one hour