Eugene Dubnov


Someone, I say, is walking and seeking, someone wants to come in and can not. Look, red, yellow, and green leaves alternate in the shrubbery beneath the window, and someone walks above and below stairs at dawn, and when it's growing dark, it is as though someone is walking in the garden, hiding behind the naked trunks, dodging from one to another. You have to prepare yourself for what has been going on for a long time, for what has, perhaps, not ceased for a second. What is it then, I ask, when someone seems as if walking nearby and wanting to come in? When someone seems to be breathing quite close, and gazing, and then looking the other way? And the sun is like a bleached patch in the clouds, and later it is as if someone takes me by the sleeve and says that it is time to set out. Someone seems to be walking ahead along the foot-path when it is getting close to midnight and stops, hearing footfalls behind. Once again a door slams above or below stairs, as has happened already. It is as if someone wants to come in, although, I am aware, they do not come in but seem to go out. It is as though you, I say, have found yourself alone in a little room where there is no space to turn round. It is as though, having moved away, you began to look upon the hills and the valleys. It is even, perhaps, as if you have brought water for someone to quench their thirst. But the hour is late, you have to rouse yourself early, have to be, to be prepared for everything. Why then, he says, did you not go out for the encounter? Why did you not get up at daybreak, I say, and why did you not meet him? It was as though you had been waiting for his glance day and night, he looks in whichever direction he pleases, and the birds shriek, not doing themselves justice, when somebody passes one way. And indeed, isn't it strange when someone is and someone, it seems, is not? And what is to be done about the map scale, in what way is one to pass through living along a section of that scale? Somebody is smiling through his beard, somebody is looking with strange eyes, somebody is nervous and speaks fast. At different tables, I reply, one perhaps had to sit, and feel a different surface, and possess a different space, and see a different view from the window. Who, someone says, is looking for me and seems unable to find me? Somewhere, I answer myself, young shoots have sprouted through a drop of spilt blood. Somewhere, I say, ice is creaking under the pressure of skates. Somewhere it's as if flakes of fleeting tenuous snow get stuck in the trees, I reply. And perhaps a bird perishes as it flies. And the recording of a voice continues, and the pitch becomes higher and higher. And the breathing has not been properly worked out. Who, he says angrily, is walking about and asking questions? Who, he asks, seeks an answer? Who seems to be walking on the snow, over the earth, and watching the autumn leaves? Who, I say, is following the flight of birds with his eyes? It is, I explain, one who seems to be silent. One who seems not to be thinking but remembering. One somebody seems to be playing hide-and-seek with. No, he replies, the light on the landing is still on, and the waves are in both for them and for us unwonted turmoil. But then who is that flitting about here, and saying silly things, and seeming not to take time's measurements? Although, I say, perhaps there is a language in which the indefiniteness of subject-matter determines in life the whole sentence. And also, there is a window through which you cannot see bare deciduous trees but, perhaps, only pines and firs. There is, someone will say, such a window, and there is another window. There is such a land, and there is another land. There is a sky, and there is a sky. As if, I say, a sky and a sky. And then the tops of the trees begin to grow dark. And the one who is walking walks along a foot-path, and the conifers on his left give place to deciduous trees. And the one who is walking seems to be walking with someone, and it's as if ice is crackling, and through the pine needles and through the leaves the new moon can be seen. And the leaves are crunching, the leaves are crunching under foot, so that somebody seems to be scared of his own footfall. And is afraid of the darkness on the left-hand side, and is looking at the lights on the other and at the stars overhead. And is sensing the earth beneath. And perhaps remembers and thinks and wants to see someone. And seems to want to be, to want to be with someone. It's time, he says, to go back, over the rustling leaves, where lamp-light falls on the boles and on the pine-needles. And in the morning it's as if someone is flapping the blue, white and red colour in the wind, and a leaf scurries across the path, and goes to cover in the grass, and for a long while after trembles, for a long while after seems unable to calm itself.

Translated from the Russian by the author with John Heath-Stubbs

Published in:
Paris/Atlantic 11