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Poems by Leopold Epstein

  • "If you experienced more than you can forget..."
  • "The life is aging in every cell..."
  • I Would Like
  • In The Middle Of Nowhere Without A Car
  • Hurricane Season
  • Structures
  • Trivia
  • To memory of John W. Harsh
  • "Fate is all it is not..."
  • Aimless, meaningless...
  • Walking Meditation
  • On this side of death
  • Parvolly-marbolee


            *   *   *

    If you experienced more than you can forget,
    If you lost more than you can regain,
    If you suffered more than you can forgive,
    And if you hold the idea to die and be born again –

    Don’t hurry choosing among a gun, and a knife,
    And wonderful medication containing zinc:
    Life is beyond reproach, like Caesar’s wife,
    And people are more the people than people think.

    As a Victorian aunt taught her obedient niece:
    "A real lady should plan the repulse for any affront",
    I suggest: there is earth – and nothing beneath,
    There are clouds above – and nothing beyond.

    1999


            *   *   *

    The life is aging in every cell,
    And damage is growing fast.
    I’ve built through years my own hell,
    And it’s time to admit it, at last -

    That I was cruel, and I was wrong
    (Yes, I mean just what I have said).
    While committing crime - thirty years long -
    I was neither insane, nor mad.

    So, that is it. Life is not a text:
    One’s unable to fix or erase.
    The story’s over. What happens next:
    Can I lessen my shame and disgrace?

    I must re-gain, little-by-little,
    Before my soul is split:
    Vision to see, faith to believe,
    Courage to act. That’s it.

    1995


            I WOULD LIKE

    I would like to be nobody nowhere
    To experience neither fear, nor anguish,
    To express myself in some excellent language
    That is not understandable to me, however.

    I would like to be as simple as your Good-bye,
    Just consuming grass like a farmer’s cow,
    Knowing perfectly what and how,
    And never thinking about why.

    I would like to see nothing above, only below,
    Be unable to tell the difference between church and jail.
    I would like to find myself on a gloomy trail
    And then come back - as simply as your Hello.




    IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WITHOUT A CAR

    When the Almighty God found Himself
    In the middle of Nowhere (without a car),
    He got deeply scared
    Of the complete emptiness of the surroundings.
    And so, by exercising His unlimited abilities,
    In six short days He designed and developed
    Something that impressed everybody, including Himself.

    In order to meet self-imposed deadline by sunset on Friday,
    He did not separate design from development
    And thus achieved unbelievable Harmony.

    This method (design and development coming together)
    Is called customarily rapid prototyping
    And usually some parts of the system should be re-done later,
    Because how could one pay attention to all those tiny details?

    This is, my darling, why we suffer sometimes without a reason
    Trying in vain to get some sleep,
    Being unable to assemble our mortal souls,
    And feeling like in the middle of nowhere
    Without a car.

    1996


            HURRICANE SEASON

                 A war attack on the Wye – innumerable spears –
                 Men of Gwent were killed in bloody blade;
                 Battle in Anglesey – great and fair – renowned the praise:
                 An expedition beyond Menai – the rest was easy.
                              Taleisin, the 6th century, translated by I. Ll. Foster

    This time of year is back again.
    Andy just past, and Barry is coming.
    TV sets are incredibly good
    And operators are extremely professional –
    So I feel myself as being in the middle of
    The terrible, roaring storm
    While sitting in a sunny room its porch door open.

    People are people, same in Arthur's Britain and now:
    We need the strong feelings, none is available outside of danger.
    Half of the nation is sitting in front of the large screens
    Disasturbating over sufferings of poor Floridians;
    All other news are less interesting today.

    A female reporter looks very appropriate
    In her red and green raincoat, her hair flying.
    She is not too young and not too beautiful
    But she stands up to the wind and she is a real American woman
    According to our new standards of modern attractiveness.
    I would certainly fuck her if I could.

    This is the second most popular channel I am watching;
    The most popular one has a macho man reporting the weather.

    How many men were killed in the great battle in Anglesey?
    How many knights died in the battle-field of Llongborth?
    People are people, the television serves to the glory
    Of our time like bards of Court of Raedwald.

    It is so nice to feel helpless
    Looking at the roofs just a little above the water.
    How good to feel safe far to the North, at home.

    The media and electrical companies make good profit.

    Nature is Nature, both then and now,
    And it does not take any feelings into account.

    2001


            STRUCTURES

    He thought of them at night alone,
    He saw them vividly, alas:
    They were made of steel and stone,
    They were made of bricks and glass.

    They were objects of his care,
    Unreconstructable anew.
    (But what was right, and what was fair,
    And what was just - he never knew.)

    Well, here he is. The grass is greeny.
    His mind is dead, his soul is free.
    And neighbor’s wife, that silly Winnie,
    Sings songs behind her apple tree.

    He’s on a bench. He’s old and tired.
    The sun is bright. And as they say,
    The deal is done. His term’s expired.
    That’s it. That’s all. And that’s - okay.

    His mind is dead but isn’t fractured,
    It’s made of dust, it’s made of sand.
    …And what is life if not a structure
    Whose shape he didn’t understand?

    2004


            TRIVIA

    Baseball in October has no rival.
    The ultimate knowledge is: where and when.
    Mess on the globe is just a tribal
    Mutiny against our brave men.

    Sex in the City has ended in glory.
    Some insurance preceded the Universe.
    Our truck is better than British lorry
    Because we are more stupid and more diverse.

    The God is unique as interrogator,
    But the Devil has power to seduce -
    He is indestructible, like an alligator.
    Paradise is a garden of no use.

    Short statements have unambiguous meaning.
    Volatility is a weakness of common stocks.
    Mister Ashcroft is perfect in the art of screening.
    Everyone in Boston is a fan of Sox.

    Life is trivial, completely, starting
    From baseball madness, taken as is,
    But he who lives in a tiny country
    May have difficulties to put up with this.

    2004


    TO MEMORY OF JOHN W. HARSCH

    Out beyond rational and emotional,
    Out beyond rural and urban,
    Out beyond probable and improbable,
    There is a land.

    It is not a wasted land,
    For dog owners walk there with their dogs.

    In the News, they just told us
    That John Harsch, 45, of Mashpee
    Died while trying to save his two dogs
    Who fell through the ice of a pond.

    “The dogs,” they added, “both survived”.

    Out beyond understandable and mysterious,
    Out beyond benign and malignant,
    Out beyond joyfulness and despair,
    There is a land.

    And, as any land, it borders some waters;
    Sometimes the waters are covered with ice;
    Sometimes the ice is not too thick.

    The last week was full of death.
    I went to a funeral of someone I knew, on Tuesday,
    Then Terri Schiavo died Thursday morning,
    And Pope John Paul the Second met his God Saturday afternoon.

    Why was I thinking, time and again,
    About Mr. John W. Harsch
    All my knowledge of whom could be expressed in one short sentence?

    He had not been selected by a conclave of cardinals,
    The US Supreme Court was not pressed by his case,
    And I did not know him personally, indeed.
    So - why?

    Out beyond pleasure and duty,
    Out beyond free will and destiny,
    Out beyond obvious and undisclosed,
    There is a land.

    Perhaps, he thought of that land as the safest -
    Well, he walked his dogs so many times there.
    Who knows what crossed his mind a second before?

    One can say that we all walk by waters
    And the ice is never too thick.

    Everything has its meaning and purpose.
    After all, the dogs survived.

    2005


            *   *   *

    Fate is all it is not.

    That brisk February morning
    With icicles shining against the sun,
    It was not Fate.

    That humid afternoon in August
    When your father was already dead
    But you were unaware of that,
    It was not Fate.

    That unremarkable October evening
    When you did what you will be always ashamed of
    Although nobody knows,
    It was not Fate.

    That bad night in late April
    You couldn’t sleep and felt lonely without a cause,
    It was not Fate.

    Fate was all it was not.

    And if they call Fate inexorable
    There is only one reason for this
    I can think of:
    It is unique.

    Some statements are so obvious
    That they are most difficult to grasp:
    The past is unchangeable, uncorrectable, and, for better or for worse,
    It exists.

    Why do we do the things we do?

    2005


    AIMLESS, MEANINGLESS…

    The best of trails are hard and steep,
    They are for footsteps, not for a jeep;
    Embrace, my dear, the simplest truth
    That quiet waters run very deep.

    Good thought is shy like a lonely moose,
    Don’t pin it down: the risk to lose
    Is less than chances to break its bones –
    It’s yours to cherish and not to use.

    Best buildings are built with the worthless stones;
    Best books will leave you with lots of unknowns.
    The thing that matters is just a scent –
    He, who denies it, he just postpones.

    Let’s follow the logic the way it went,
    Control each dollar, for what it spent –
    Yet all this brought me to discontent:
    You may continue – not me, I can’t.

    2006


    WALKING MEDITATION

    Breath in. Breath out.
    Don’t say anything aloud.
    This is the art and the science
    To say to oneself in silence:
    “You are here, my fear,
    I’ve recognized you, my dear.
    You did not disappear.
    You are in my chest
    Which is the best nest.
    Are you in peace and in rest?
    Don’t worry, my dearest friend:
    I’ll smile to you at the end,
    To you, not to clear sky.
    And please, do not ask me - why.”

    2006


    ON THIS SIDE OF DEATH

    Whatever awaits us on the other side,
    This side is remarkably light and bright,
    Especially now – when the summer’s in sight
    But the air is fresh and cool at night.

    Whatever awaits us on the other side,
    This one is sufficiently long and wide.
    I’m ready for death but it is all right
    To continue the journey, one day at a bite.

    Whatever awaits us on the other side,
    I am going to keep my arrogant pride
    And fully rely on imperfect guide
    This side’s experience should provide.

    2009


    PARVOLLY-MARBOLEE

    Love is for sure the happiest instance that can
    Happen t’ a woman and, for that matter, a man.
    Parvolly-marbolee – that is the name of a magic
    That forces one’s drying love to flourish again.

    Death is the scariest thing we are destined to face;
    Gloomy it will be, the finish of life’s lengthy race.
    Parvolly-marbolee cannot abolish the doomsday
    But is the means to get ready and meet it with grace.

    Illnesses make the companionship for the old;
    Some try to smooth them by comfort of velvet and gold.
    Parvolly-marbolee may be at least as effective
    While it is cheaper and can’t be removed, I was told.

    Excellent parvollies-marbolees are homemade.
    Do it yourself, as you need no guidance or aid;
    Although, both place is important and timing does matter:
    Best is – in August, and under a tree, in its shade.

    2011


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