South Station

Jamie L. Olson translating Irina Yevsa from the Russian

click here for the Russian text

April diligently tills and turns up
the earth, airing out its depths.
The fussy city square, with its flock of pigeons,
flutters down into blueness and rests
amid the noise of splashing, flapping, flitting…
Meanwhile, you hang around in the open
like some confused or simple-minded assistant
who's been dismissed from all her jobs.
And near the flowerbed, a mob of swallows
chatters in the local tongue
till dusk, fighting for every scrap and morsel
on the stones—clan against clan.

The wind bursts in from near the seventh platform
and brings a shiver of moist night air.
The last commuter train arrives on schedule.
The express from Kiev is running late,
while someone rides inside—despairing completely—
and reads a tattered paperback.
He gives a slice of cake to his companion,
buying his freedom with a snack
to keep from being reduced to panicked muttering;
instead, he seeks and finds that place
where you come into view, looming featureless,
a cigarette between your lips.


Translator's Note on the title: the South Station, also known as Kharkov Passenger Station, is the main railway terminal in Kharkov, Ukraine.

Jamie L. Olson teaches in the English Department at Saint Martin’s University, just outside of Olympia, Washington. His translations from Russian have recently appeared in Cardinal Points, Chtenia, Crab Creek Review, and Ozone Park Journal. He writes about poetry, translation, and Russian culture on his site The Flaxen Wave.

Irina Yevsa is a poet and translator who lives in Kharkov, Ukraine. She is the author of eight poetry collections, and her poems have appeared in many Ukranian and Russian literary journals, not to mention several anthologies. Besides contemporary Ukranian, Polish, and Armenian poets, Yevsa has translated Sappho, Pythagoras, and Omar Khayyam into Russian. She co-edited the anthology Wild Field: Poems by Russian Poets in Ukraine at the End of the 20th Century (2000). The Ukranian poet and critic Slanislav Minakov writes, “Yevsa organically combines tradition with the achievements of contemporary poetry; picturesqueness and sound exist in her work not to the detriment of depth. Indeed, her poems are not games, deception, or magic that become reality, but reality itself.”