Alexander Nemirovsky (trans. James Manteith)

Vista Point (poetry)

Published in: 26. Non-Return

The First Day


So, is it all the same, what poems say?

They could be called a way of setting sail

In a little boat of rhyme-sealed lines.

Picking up the desirable as central,

Remembering God created the world at night.

The handwriting

Thus read a little worse.

Before the universe

First sounded, its rhyme had life.

The boat, experience heaped in its containers,

Maneuvers to clear the reefs

Of the intellectual.

Soaking paper at least beats miring in silt.

In the still zero hour, the first sound amounts to the endless.

Then the first word to soften, melt,

Is the first-ever dawn. The first-ever goal

The ageless.

The dying sound — all’s built —

Decays as light for the cosmos. Trills

For birds aren’t yet complete,

Or else that part would enter.

The boat still has nowhere to moor.

You and I still have no bodies.

But the start is sure.




I’ll learn to read the words of holy earth —

That rock pierced by the progress of that tree.

A kitten groveling in the dirt,

Above it, in a frame of cyclery,

Swarthy legs pump by instead of walking,

Ferrying a business-minded Bedouin.

Sending my hand speeding to my pocket’s

Wallet bump.


Blares all around, equally unmoved

By prophet or pedestrian.

Gazing down, from ages high — they look alike,

But who can

See this from a side perspective?


So, vulgarly,

Clad in the mask of someone else’s soul,

I, shielded by a skullcap or a wide-brim,

March behind a praying man, appalled,

Imagining I’ll disobey the threshold,

Stride across. That the lid

Of time, the valve of passage there,

Will barricade the exit,

With any thought of seeking retrogression

Futile then.

And so mankind, humanity’s raw ore,

Transitions into spirit, into prayer and into rubble, gone.

Within, words manifest — holy specks.nd, humanity’s raw ore,


New Zealand Landscape


Navigating the asphalt of Zealand,

You reconceive the extent of the planet

And its orbital motion. Arriving mantled

In work’s torridly sewn fabric

Of distractions,

You change into a swimsuit.

Northern latitudes

Serve solely for review

Of finances in paying off the house

Where you quarter,

Since here the heads of sheep and cattle

Have the people markedly outnumbered.


You peer in wonder at a Milky Way

Of worms, phosphorescent,

Who live in the darkness of caves,

Where the silence and the vaults don’t suffocate.

And marvel at waterfall rivulets

Rocketing through a gorge’s funnel.

At April

Out in Queenstown,

Found yellow and green with pyramids of poplars.

You pause to have a cookie or a brownie

With a cup of latte

By a lake where an embarking

Steamboat won’t be seen redocking.


Because you’re a onetime guest

With the prospect of a motel

A hundred kilometers southward.

And it’s long past time for rolling out of April

To a May of fjords, the lever grasped

For shifting speeds, with inferred


This time is brief.

That is, impressions dense within time’s unit.

One wants to spend a lifetime near these places, yes.

But that much

Lies beyond one generation’s limit.


The 49-er


A little gold-rush burg

Rezoned with offices for high technology.

The spur

Of a mountain. Parking spaces.

Electric transportation, its nose hitched to a rack —

Feeding through a wire.

An archway.

A cute little old library,

A sight that triggers

Memories of books as means of contact

With the primal culture of a bygone century.


The miner, no veteran of loneliness,

Fidgets with an iPhone —

But switches to computer

When this grows unbearable.

As background, on the screen

Floats an ever-open chat.

Oblivious to handwriting,

He scribbles with his thumbs.

Vision queasy,

Head reeling as if inhaling fumes.



Tourist wanderers,

Chitter-chatter snapshots

Of Victorian facades

Contrasting with the signs of global firms.

A bay. A port. High-rises.

An action film.


A hero. Of course, the hero fights alone.

Noble. Undefeatable.

Seen somewhere already.

A plot persuasively

Passing through a point that’s known

As no-return,


The chase of golden quarry.

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