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Language Wrecker

by Galina Rymbu
Translated from Russian by
Jonathan Brooks Platt
Issue 27 Online Exclusive


we live in a dark world
pressing toward others through thin cracks
through crooked pipes we flow back
into the dolorous lake.


solitude inside, lying and licking




a language wrecker
laboring nearby
the murk of order has no bottom.


loud fingers click, like a lock
on the wasteland of your head, holding back
in the cool basin of night.


a child
moves along the wall,
state property, where time flows like mud
in bad weather… flows, flows…
you’re still hanging around the human… before you go
sit down with me for a second in the forced folds of the morning,
in the baked blanket, like the fat lips of war.


you lie there alone in shabby comfort,
hiding your head from an invisible blow—


the wrecking bar labors methodically,
gouging gnarled holes in your fear—
love can do this, so sublimely
it would seem…


questions of collaboration.
a cross of flame. death
cooks up some soup where it all gave out.




a lusterless friend appeared on the threshold,
like an anachronism,
I don’t know what to do with him
and under lock and key the struggle
found some way to adapt.




over time nothing comes out—
only the body hardens.
think of it like you’re dragging a tin can
over to a friend’s place, out onto the square, dragging it, like someone else
soft militant talking too much
fuck knows what




on the fence of the empire they write: “basically everything’s allowed”
the left party has again come to power in the USA
say vegetables from the fire,
pouring hot juices onto deep sleep:
rise, militant, if you want to eat
militant, rise
whoever you are




war philosopher war philosopher
I am a war philosopher of peace, like the lotus,
I am a war philosopher of peoples past
I am the philosopher of unseeing white plants,
of shell shucker-fucker consciousness, of bruised stones,
of ecological performance artists,
like borders, like memory.
I don’t know what you’re talking about,
what happened, who lay with whom in my book of war,
the world map no longer functions in my book of war.
read my book whoever you are read it
buy it if you can, militant
you know where.




some uncanny bug like in childhood crawls across the plain
everything is big and surprising… so important…



let’s go to the shop.
across the wasteland.


teenagers shout at my father: “black-ass!”



a child swollen from the light.
in the school cafeteria.
a feast of insects.



I can still see through the crack: in this cellar
met leaders of states.



onto the sleep-grille—the grille of language: the language of history.
onto the love-grille marriage lays its grille, and the child-grille burns on the grille of time.
the speech-grille brings politics to an end.
in grilled off spaces anonymous; code in the hole-grille is drilling.
where’s the hatch?
where’s the way out?


why have you squeezed yourself into the concentrated space
of verse



no time for loss.
desire calls us to the final muster
without boots, without a passport
along the barrel, along the mountain
in the shade inside
you go—everything is ok now,
dumb wrecker.


schools of thought like rotting animal skins descanting in the darkness…


beyond this enmity
light awaited us.

Galina Rymbu was born in 1990 in the city of Omsk (Siberia, Russia) and currently lives in St. Petersburg. She has published poems in the Russian journals The New Literary Observer, Air, and in the Translit almanac. Her first book, Moving Space of the Revolution, was published in Russian in 2014. Her poetry has also appeared in English translation in The White Review, n+1, Music & Literature, Asymptote, Powder Keg, and Cosmonauts Avenue. She curated “New Poetry in the Literary Institute,” an alternative education project (2012–2013), the All-Russian Week of Youth Poetry in Moscow (2013), the Arkady Dragomoshchenko Prize (2015–present), and the exhibition House of Voices: At the Margins of Language (2014–15), which addresses the death of small languages in Russia. White Bread, a chapbook of English translations of her work, is available from After Hours, Ltd.
Jonathan Brooks Platt writes on topics including Stalin-era culture and politics, representations of reading in late Russian Romanticism, and the actionist tradition in Russian contemporary art. His monograph, Greetings, Pushkin!: Stalinist Cultural Politics and the Russian National Bard appeared in 2017 through University of Pittsburgh Press and, in Russian translation, EUSPb Press. He is a widely-published translator of new Russian Left poetry, and he has collaborated on artistic projects with Chto Delat, the Factory of Found Clothes, and the Texno-Poetry music cooperative. His current project, The Last Soviet Militant, engages the controversial legacy of Zoya Kosmodemianskaya, a female partisan who was tortured and executed by German forces in 1941, and who remains an icon of militant devotion in Russia to this day.