By Uladzimir Lobač
Translation: Hanna Komar, John Farndon


* * *
We lie on the bank of the sleepy river
staring up the murky sky
looking for the stars and signs given to us
of non-accidental touches and kisses
in the time of a supposedly foreign war,
of which we earnestly pray: Let it pass us by!
If we close our eyes in tenderness,
maybe it will happen – we won’t see how
Iskanders fall instead of stars
over your beloved Minsk and my native Polack.


A skinny little cat
disregards the bullets and explosions
and guzzles,
ears quivering,
from a thick red puddle.

* * *
We’re all half winter, we are all half night
we love tracking through the dark and not get lost
for we are all half evil, we are all half light
we know where home is and where someone’s guard post.

‚Til we’re used to the dark, sooner or later
we must rely on touch, as if we are blind,
as rough hands hold ours and another’s fate,
‚til we pass the dead forest to the sun behind.

* * *
A nation of sad dogged pickers of mushrooms,
lobbyists of autumns fine and gold,
a nation of farmers with no horses nor farms
who never invite guests to the fold.

A nation of the faithful who do not believe
in fine words of gods or of their neighbours,
who in winter count all the days of the freeze
among the crucian carps and bears.

A nation of partisans, in field and wood,
watching life without rage or bravery,
a nation of cops, both bad and good,
with no intention, just for equity.

A nation of the silent and of the silenced
at the crossroads of worlds and roads
melting voice into rhyme and the sense
of all their many executed poets.

* * *
When there’s no sun in the sky,
when there are no stars in the sky
then the dead grey sky
is only where ravens fly.

When the country has no light,
when the country has no soul
then the land is overtaken quite
by dead grey people whole.

* * *
When someone calls me from Belarus,
I lose the meaning of what they say
because I’m listening to the background noise:
the car beeping outside the window,
the cat meowing in the kitchen,
children’s laughter…
Beyond the news and squabble
your intonation matters more to me:
the subtle notes in your voice
which can’t be faked
even by the Prosecutor General’s Office itself.

* * *
Bury it or leave it to hungry wolves and scavengers?
Snowflakes melt on his cheeks not yet cold entirely,
no point sending word on telegram or messenger,
because Russian ‘zhiony’ live there, not Ukrainian ‘zhinki’ .
Even at night you can switch on the light instantly,
even in silence, you can call out again.
Cover a killed enemy with rough sackcloth, simply,
and your wounds – as always, pour over the grain.

* * *
You put the word ‘outland’
at the bottom of your travel suitcase,
spread some jokes and laughter on top,
hide it behind meetings and dreams,
gothic and baroque landscapes,
Lithuanian, German and Polish cafes,
museums, exhibitions and concerts…
Still, every morning, without exception,
completely unfamiliar white clouds and grey clouds
in the sky complete a puzzle for you
called OUTLAND