A Poem by Matvei Yankelevich



Struggle with the orange juice

container. Lack of voice to ask

for assistance. Perception

of one’s hands, one, then the other;

the same? Sensation of dryness–

outside. Inside, something like

dryness, but swollen. Act

of imagination involving

other possible outcomes,

sets of ulterior movements.

Reevaluation of motives

in the act of choice. Clarification

of moral positions. Justification

of chance events through assertion

of bitter life lessons. Biting

of lips and dry parts

of fingers, close to the hard

nails. Relaxation of muscles,

the eyes. Cessation of outward

gaze. Decision to look around.

Olfactory intake of coffee

essence. Desire not to repeat

a move, desire to leave

the closed system. Of the choice

(the black and white squares).

Unconscious examination

of the textures of things in

nearby vicinity, indifferent

identification of these things.

Sudden acknowledgment

of how few others will actually

arrive at the same destination.

Solace in the choice to accept

the chance collection of those

others. Difficulty accepting as solace

this. Sadness as indifferent

observation of sky or fabrics

resembling sky. Proximity

of sky despite its distance. Distance

of others in spite of proximity,

and even indifference at this

distance. Slow and steady

assertion of belief in actual

surroundings as only truth.

Learning of life’s lessons (even

still) especially unpleasant (as

concept). Concepts—other concepts—

arising as appealing over

and above hands and deeds, above

words even. Still, slowly descending

from spheres to hands, and

the searching for other hands,

to replace these. Still hope

of mutual choice in joining of hands.

Faithlessness in ability to fully

deserve faith, to deserve hands,

or proximity of sky, or hands.

Desire to be not judged. Desire

to be unconceptual. Not to respect,

dread of repetition. Struggle between

hands and the orange juice

container resembling other

banal struggles, not more

meaningful for this resemblance,

however. Possibility of doing

something if only accomplished

by resignation to the non-contravertability

of emotionally truthful action.

Such action not ever degrading,

no matter consists of what. Desire

of emotionally truthful action. Desire

of orange juice. Desire

of assistance by hands.



Matvei Yankelevich is the author of Boris by the Sea (Octopus), and several chapbooks, including Bending at the Elbow, forthcoming from Minutes Books. His translations of the Russian writer Daniil Kharms were collected in Today I Wrote Nothing (Ardis/Overlook). He teaches at Columbia University School of the Arts and the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College. He is a member of the volunteer editorial collective of Ugly Duckling Presse and a co-editor of 6×6 magazine.

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