There’s No Way for Me to Go Back:
Four Poems by Sophia Parnok

Translated from Russian by Rainie Oet


There’s no way for me to go back!
I scream at full anguish.
I run around the squares
Of the chess board.

I step on every other one:
The others—are not mine.
Oh, my stingy joy,
You split me, too, in two.

So that I’m to measure by half.
That I’m to believe by half-faith.
That I’m to howl in half-voice.
That I’m to be not myself!




To Sofia Chatskina

And all of us will walk separately:
these ones—into company, those—to loneliness.
But we will all walk together
when it comes our time to die.

A star will rise over the wilds,
and the sky will raise itself higher—
and then we’ll hear so many songs
as if for the first time!




“Seventh heaven”—what does that mean?
An auditorium, stretched to the depths of height?
Something like nosebleed seats in the theater,
A small circle of enthusiasts?

Even an amoeba has its own heaven,
With its own host of amoebic saints,
There are heroes, and Cleopatras,
The pathos of love, and crazy deeds.
It’s boring, so boring to live under heaven,
And more boring, maybe, under the seventh.

Kashin, 1932



For Maria Maksakova

Can a thunderstorm happen in mid-winter
And a sky blue as indigo?
I love that your eyes are crossed
And that your soul has a crossing.

And I like those shivery shoulders,
The quickness of your sprightly gait,
Your empty and frugal speech,
Your mermaid-tight thighs.

I like that in your chill
I am, as in high fire, smelting,
I like that—can I admit it!—
I like that I don’t appeal to you.

October 6, 1931


Gray dirt, blue sky. The potato skins had white eyes.

Government Funding

an overgrown manchild importantly spitting / his wild image, going shopping along the main / drag of city life, greedily bringing his lips / closer to the bottle to get to the bottom / of non-things


A few years after the war, a Jewish lady moved in between the Kistjes and the Gelders. None of us remember her very clearly, but the words used in conversation still itch.