The Tea Room Orthodoxy by Andrei Polyakov

Andrei Polyakov
“We’ll return, me and you, my Moon, to the world”
“It may be the stars, it may be the snow…”
The Tea Room Orthodoxy



* * *

We’ll return, me and you, my Moon, to the world
not to shine – as a matter of habit.
In the night we’ll stop by the grubby outhouse,
matches dampened in our habits.

We’ll return so that our tired bed would cease
soaring over Russia, our Lover,
so that hands may tremble like hanged men, leaves
on the aspen trees – from a hangover.

We’ll go back, me and you, dear Moon, my friend,
to the dark of the barracks and hedges,
to the place where the Soviet Otherland
gets assembled from late-night exchanges.

The poetic horse with unhandsome face
carries us to our utmost anger –
and the golden ring – like an endless snake –
hisses at me from your finger.



* * *

It may be the stars, it may be the snow,
it may be the frost and the light.
Maybe – in the air, maybe – in a dream,
and certainly – where we ain’t.
I think I’ve looked at the stars for too long –
I’ve grown so shy, so withdrawn,
my brittle soul has crumbled like chalk,
my body’s floating like smoke.
It’s floating upstream, it’s drifting about,
swaying slightly, its bruises livid.
A star flickers through the quaky throat,
but there’s no one to see it.



The Tea Room Orthodoxy

there’s a buddhist state
which could be pointed out with
fingers, knees, or shoulders,
a state that receives time
with cool respect
as if it were a soviet ambassador –
while you sit in a meditation pose
and think of No One
and Time doesn’t pass, but then comes
timetogohavetea, time
for fingers – to hold – a cup
for a lap – a fat buddha of a cat
for the center of the breast – emptiness

I don’t need anything:
not apples-God-forbid, not tea
on my desk, not even an open window
into which a star peers, mocking
oh yes, you’re such a great poet
such a non-famous poet
such a poet smelling of cheap cigarettes
with a killer headache, caught
in the earthly akribeia

The silvery giggle cuts
through cosmic space, hits
the teapot and the tea cup.
Don’t say: “it hits”
but say: “it rings”
don’t say: “a giggle”
but say: “a beetle”

A beetle hopsaround and feeds on apples
and you’re such a one who sits
and drinketh not his tea

No need of anything? I don’t believe you, lol.
Don’t lie to your own self, my dearest yourself.
The savior will return, for tea is bitter still,
spoon clinks,  and apples – crunch; the lyric – rings.
As for the head that pained you all along –
quit smoking, take a Tylenol.

Translated from Russian by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky.


Andrei Polyakov lives in Simferopol, Crimea. In 2014, Crimea was occupied by the Russian military forces. As a result of a military-supported referendum, and in violation of international legal norms and treaties, it was annexed by Russia that very year. 
Polyakov is the author of six books of poetry: Epistulae ex Ponto (1995), The Orthographic Minimum (2001), For Those Who Sleep (2003), The Chinese Landing (2010), Letter (2013), and America(2014). In his poetry, Polyakov has cultivated an image of a poet in exile on the outskirts of the empire, prompting critics to compare him to Ovid.
Polyakov is a recipient of Russia’s top award in poetry, Andrei Bely Prize (2011), and the top award for Russian poetry written by a foreign national, the Russian Prize (2014).
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