07 March 2019

Interpreting Tselkov / Истолкование Целкова

Nina Loseff with Tselkov's 'Goldfish '57' ca. 1958

Interpreting Tselkov

Hemp-rope hairiness, candle wax.
A face with a backside over.
What remains, do your best to extract
from the flame, the murk, and the puther.

Now there’s only a menacing trace,
in the black flame-memento of colour,
of Tselkov in his ‘scutcheon’ phase,
Latin larvae, or ‘masks’ as we call them.

Instead of landscapes and flowers,
these masks, with their rips and punctures,
like placards for pointless fuss,
used to hang there in Soviet apartments.

And though they were eyeless, they’d spy—
anti-icons they might be accounted—
on rebarbative days flying by,
shots of rotgut, and laws being flouted.

But paintbrush and pencil still
make a movement from cycle to cycle.
Tselkov’s pictures gave rise to a soul,
with a butterfly’s yellow its signal.

From these do-you-in larval sheaths,
(God forbid you should dream them at nighttime)
if you look, you can see it steal
through an eye socket with no eye in.

So here it alights on a nail,
and there it flicks by like lightning.
On candle, hemp rope, overall.
Even places you can’t descry it.

From Чудесный десант (The Miraculous Raid), 1985

The eminent artist Oleg Tselkov (b. 1934) studied theatre arts in Leningrad in the 1950s, and moved in the same circles as Lev Loseff and his literary friends at that time; they were involved in several well-documented escapades. Tselkov moved to Moscow in 1958, and then to Paris in 1977.

(Translator’s note: I would like to thank Mikhail Efimov for advice concerning this translation.)

(Translation © 2019 G.S. Smith)

Translations of this poem by Henry Pickford and Walter Arndt are HERE

Истолкование Целкова 

Ворс веревки и воск свечи. 
Над лицом воздвижение зада. 
Остальное — поди различи 
среди пламени, мрака и чада. 

Лишь зловеще еще отличим
в черной памяти-пламени красок
у Целкова период личин,
«лярв» латинских, по-нашему «масок».

Замещая ландшафт и цветы,
эти маски в прорехах и дырах 
как щиты суеты и тщеты 
повисали в советских квартирах. 

Там безглазо глядели они, 
словно некие антииконы,
как летели постылые дни, 
пился спирт, попирались законы.

Но у кисти и карандаша
есть движение к циклу от цикла. 
В виде бабочки желтой душа
на холстах у Целкова возникла.

Из личинок таких, что — хана,
из таких, что не дай Бог приснится, 
посмотри, пролезает она
сквозь безглазого глаза глазницу.

Здесь присела она на гвозде, 
здесь трассирует молниевидно. 
На свече, на веревке, везде.
Даже там, где ее и не видно. 

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