No, No! Believe me!
I’ve come to the wrong place!
I’ve made a god-awful mistake! Even the glass
in my hand’s an accident,
and so’s the gauze glance
of the woman who runs the joint.
‘Let’s dance, huh?
You’re pale…
Didn’t get enough sleep? ‘
And I feel like there’s no place
to hide, but say, anyway, in a rush
‘I’ll go get dressed…
No, no…it’s just
that I ended up out of bounds…’
And later, trailing me as I leave:
‘This is where booze gets you…
What do you mean, ‘not here’? Right here! Right here every time!
You bug everybody, and you’re so satisfied
with yourself, Zhenichka,
you’ve got a problem.’
I shove the frost of my hands
down my pockets, and the streets around are snow,
deep snow. I dive into a cab. Buddy, kick this thing! Behind
the Falcon
there’s a room. They’re supposed to be waiting for me there.
She opens the door,
but what the hell’s wrong with her?
Why the crazy look?
‘It’s almost five o’clock.
You sure you couldn’t have come a little later?
Well, forget it. Come on in. Where else could you go now? ‘
Shall I explode
with a laugh
or maybe with tears?
I tell you I was scribbling doggerel,
but I got lost someplace.
I hide from the eyes. Wavering I move backwards:
‘No, no! Believe me! I’ve come to the wrong place! ‘
Once again the night,
once again snow
and somebody’s insolent song,
and somebody’s clean, pure laughter.
I could do with a cigarette.
In the blizzard Pushkin’s demons flash past,
and their contemptuous, buck-toothed grin
scares me to death.
And the kiosks,
and the drugstores,
and the social security offices
scare me just as much…
No, no! Believe me! I’ve ended up
in the wrong place again…
It’s horrible to live
and even more horrible
not to live…
Ach, this being homeless
like the Wandering Jew…Lord! Now I’ve gotten myself
into the wrong century,
wrong epoch,
geologic era,
wrong number.
The wrong place again.
I’m wrong.
I’ve got it wrong…
I go, slouching my shoulders as I’d do
if I’d lost some bet,
and ah, I know it…everybody knows it…
I can’t pay off.

Translated by James Dickey with Anthony Kahn

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