Poems from Microscope
by Maya Sarishvili
Translated by Timothy Kercher and Nene Giorgadze
These rare English translations of the Georgian poet, Maya Sarishvili, come to us through the work of Tim Kercher and his translation partner, Nene Giorgadze. Of Tim’s many translation projects (see another Kercher translation here on NC), I am particularly drawn to Sarishvili’s poems as her work creates a meticulously urgent consciousness—her writing reminds me of the startling humanity of Anna Swir’s poetry mixed with elements of the mysteriously resonate, vulnerable work of Mary Ruefle.
Tim Kercher and I became friends at Vermont College, having survived the famed Lasko pivo, DG-infused Slovenia residency of 2008. Originally from Colorado, Tim currently teaches high school English in Kyiv, Ukraine, his fifth overseas teaching appointment. Tim lived in the Republic of Georgia for the past four years, where he started editing and translating an anthology of contemporary Georgian poetry. His manuscript, “Nobody’s Odyssey,” was recently selected as a finalist for the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and his poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review, Quiddity, The Dirty Goat, Poetry International Journal, upstreet, The Minnesota Review, and others.
Co-translator Nene Giorgadze holds an MA in Georgian Literature from Ilia University (Tbilisi, Georgia), has lived in US since 1999, and speaks three languages: Georgian, English, and Russian. She has written poetry and prose since childhood. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in Ann Arbor Review, Raleigh Review, Rhino, and others
Maya Sarishvili won the SABA Prize for Poetry, Georgia’s top literature award, for her collection, Microscope, which includes these three poems. She is the author of one other poetry collection, Covering Reality (2001), as well as three radio plays. She lives in Tbilisi, Georgia where she works as a third-grade teacher and is mother to four children, ages 5 to 12. Her work has is forthcoming or has appeared in Crazyhorse, Versal, Nashville Review, Los Angeles Review, Guernica, and others.
What a pleasure it is to grapple with and savor these poems.
[Now, the storm has arrange the insane,]
Now, the storm has arranged the insane,
set down a different order.
Those at the end are children, like rhymes.
A lunatic poem started as a protest.
My smile is thrown down
like a wounded wing
I can’t lift it, can’t grip it.
A crowd tramples my lips—
it gets worse in the throng’s midst.
I look up—drops like mini-megaphones.
I chase them down and to each one,
read my poems.
It’s odd. Not a single drop lingers with me.
And I remember the sticky stage
in a packed-out house
where, once upon a time
as a child, I foolishly rose
when my mother was dying
and clumsily climbed up on the table
to make God better hear my prayers…
[It doesn’t work this way—]
It doesn’t work this way—
even when you knock down an entire forest,
you won’t find a single root anywhere.
When not fixed to the earth, the universe
is a nightmare.
Towns float atop asphalt,
Wherever the earth collapses,
it drifts away—
like enormous razors
And how enthusiastically we all strip
one by one of the ancient veins—
and soon enough
even the bees can’t sting our ceramic children
any longer, children meant to be displayed
on top of grand pianos…
[Do you hear the shallow breaths?]
Do you hear the shallow breaths?
Here, my room possesses the night
—as a maid—
from growing old, being unable to manage
to ghosts bred in torment,
in-your-face laughter can’t be held back—
the curtains, too, can bear no more light
entering from windows—
sleep, caught by
sharp neon beams—
the glimmering ads
charming blood from words,
with letters that pity me—dumb slaves
lined up and made to scream till dawn.
The full milk glass is wrapped in black cotton.
Everything that doesn’t break—even the address book
is wrapped in black cotton—
and there, in the alphabet’s impractical manner,
my invented friends are waving goodbye.