Poem: Headphones

Bob Holman calls Serhiy Zhadan’s poetry a “Canterbury Tales” of Ukrainian widespread individuals. He lists all of the individuals, the troopers, farmers, drug sellers and poor whose tales Zhadan tells. The listing goes on till it consists of everybody. How might it not? These poems had been crafted in a world that frightens — the place the will to be free results in an accumulation of corpses, the place it doesn’t matter what, it’s essential to nonetheless sing and nonetheless love. Selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts

Credit…Illustration by R. O. Blechman


By Serhiy Zhadan
Translated by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps from the Ukrainian

Sasha, a quiet drunk, an esoteric, a poet,
spent your complete summer time within the metropolis.
When the capturing started, he was shocked —
began watching the information, then stopped.
He walks across the metropolis with headphones on,
listening to golden oldies,
as he stumbles into burned-out automobiles,
blown-up our bodies.

What will survive from the historical past
of the world by which we lived
would be the phrases and music of some geniuses
who desperately tried to warn us,
tried to clarify, however failed to clarify something
or save anybody;
these geniuses lie in cemeteries
and out of their ribcages
develop flowers and grass.
Nothing else will stay —
solely their music and songs, a voice
that forces you to like.

You can select to by no means flip off this music.
Listen to the cosmos, shut your eyes.
Think about whales within the ocean at night time.
Hear nothing else.
See nothing else.
Feel nothing else.
Except, after all, for the scent,
the scent of corpses.

Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. He created Freedom Reads, an initiative to curate microlibraries and set up them in prisons throughout the nation. His newest assortment of poetry, “Felon,” explores the post-incarceration expertise. His 2018 article in The New York Times Magazine about his journey from teenage carjacker to working lawyer gained a National Magazine Award. Serhiy Zhadan is a Ukrainian poet whose newest ebook is “The Orphanage: A Novel” (Yale University Press, 2021). This poem is taken from “What We Live For, What We Die For: Selected Poems” (Yale University Press, 2019).