Lyn Hejinian
from Oxota: A Short Russian Novel












Chapter 7

One person believes in nothing and another dislikes poetry
They don't present equal dangers to society
The lowness of the light stole the field from its shadows
An old babushka on the ice atop the ridge of snow packed
          beside the street
In deed and word
She was hissing
And a pedestrian screaming, what are you doing up there, you
          stupid old woman
The shouting samaritan jerked the granny to safety
She was hissing like a street cat, not snakily
An engine, an omen of weddings
An habitual association with daily aesthetic impressions
An omen of the love of art and its social functioning
An orb standing for an orbit
The old woman still standing in the street


Chapter 80

Two rams, which ram redeemed
One ram wasted, one ram waiting
Maybe the same ram--in romance wandering
In descriptions crossing and saw things
Barges hardly higher than the surface of the water bore meat
          bones slipping under the bridges
At two a.m. the bridges rose for bigger boats, then fell at 4:55,
          and rose at five again
We sped across--the Lada rammed through the failing snow
The trees shook, atoning for momentum
Where we say "he's a crook" they say "he's a comer"
The notorious Russian soul, fulfilling our goal
We were laughing at the Russian novel
We will say, the slower you go the farther you'll get and plain
          water is glad to get a crow
We will be redeemed, we will be rescued
We will believe everything we say


Chapter 126: The Doubting Man

We had found a pretext for not going out--swarms of such
          pretexts are here every day to engulf us
These and similar outcries
The gloomy daylight was condensing like steam on the
Outside, below, in the patch of forest confined to the housing
          block a tattered cat howled as the cold tugged its fur
Nobody--Arkadii laughs as he coughs
Coffee is a savage consolation for waking up
And tea?
The same, but like a sun
Its savagery is only metaphysical
The strictness of the walls of the room had been lost--
          withdrawn or removed
Here, said Arkadii--a letter from Chekhov
One must always suspect the beginning and end, since it's
          there that the writer puts his lies


Chapter 192

But to return to the theme of the novel and poetry
That is, one theme
The time comes when each individual poem reveals not only
          its own internal connections but also spreads them out
          externally, anticipating the integrity each poem requires
          in order to explain obscure points, arbitrary elements,
          etc., which, if they were kept within the limits of the given
          text, would seem otherwise to be mere examples of the
          freedom of expression
One can't be intimidated by the threat of subordination
Nor by petty attractions nor semantic conflicts
By poplar fluff and Chinese islands
And not even by compositional imperatives demanding new
But there are days--let's not forget real days--when
          language loses speed
Then it lags as the nights lag, brief and nonetheless long
And one submits to a sensation
It's something entirely meaningless and unexpected
It's devoid of interpretation, a perfect quiddity
The long awaited meeting of signifier and signified
And one begins to examine the construction of small
          resonating forms (this occurs most often in spring), to
          investigate their behavior, and to extract from that a set of
          --I couldn't say images--principles which seem to be
          the only ones adequate to the attempt to say nothing


Chapter 259

It's characteristic of a Russian novelist to reveal some lack
          of confidence in the relationship between words and their
A chair but not sure what sits and what will match it
Noon freezing on the spot we don't remember
Each action hangs, inconsequentially, over objects
How many alternatives there must be
How many patient alternatives await fulfilling
Unextracted paradoxes, breathless empty icy streets,
          anticipated catastrophes with no one approaching, love
          not provided with intrigue
It was Zina who called it oxota
The hunt
The lack of confidence is as interminable as the converging
          smells of repetitious days of summer lingering in the
          corners of a room whose windows have been closed
          despite the heat because of a torrential rain that's buzzing
          like a nest of wasps furiously humming under the eaves, a
          smell of mint and mud, of warm slices of pepper and
          monotony and oily rags
Indefinable by definition and incomparably yellow, it spread,
          until one finds itself stuttering desperately, as if to
          evoke the gods of punctuation, begging them to partition
          the vastness, to ennumerate objects, to gather what's worthy
          of attention, and to separate this from that
Begging, in effect, for judgement
But this lack of confidence often culminates in a single instant
          of ignorance
And that instant, Arkadii said, might correspond to what you
          have called paradise


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