[Poetry] — Yasna Bozhkova


“Everything is too much, I felt as I rode wearily after her. Too much blue, too much purple, too much green. The flowers too red, the mountains too high, the hills too near. And the woman is a stranger. Her pleading expression annoys me.” (Jean Rhys)

When you suddenly find
yourself endowed with the ability

to repair a leaking siphon, or a broken toilet flush
to remove an oil stain from a dress

or even stop an octogenarian fridge
wetting itself

But when you know that never, no matter
how hard you try, will you be able

to patch up the shards, shattered all over the terracotta floor,
when the toxic slimy spume of the Sargasso Sea

stretches gruesomely, incongruously,
beyond the Sicilian coast,

and as you pray to Mount Etna to instruct you
in the secret lore of Obeah rituals

to try to reignite your lost love,
her ruthless riposte is:

“Love is not love
which alters when it alteration finds,

or bends with the remover to remove”—
Then you find yourself thinking,

if Derek Walcott were here, would he find
the hills too green, the sea too blue, the heat

too sweltering, and the woman
a stranger?

And would he come and stop her
In Part Three

Before she set fire to the place,
Her nightgown ablaze, crying Che Coco?

The Art of Slicing

I wake up with a sudden decisiveness
to celebrate that Sunday midmorning
when we strolled to the market and bought
peppers and onions and aubergines—
you especially insisted on the onions.

I said you slice the onions I always cry—
You see, the slices looked like the pattern on your curtains,
which you had bought on your trip to India.
They were the first thing
I used to see on waking up

(halfway off your mattress—
it never seemed to be large enough for both of us)

then you
took one red pepper, and hung it
on the wall, and said—it’s just like in that poem,
but I hadn’t read it, so I started leafing
through your books, but
instead of a poem I found a photograph

and then I knew.

So now I sit in my solitary kitchen and slice onions.
I slice onions with my eyes dry and my heart brimming.
And I wonder if I hang a thousand
peppers on every wall will you
come back to me
but oh, no, I come up with a better idea—
I slice my hand instead of the onions
and the whole kitchen, and all the walls.

A Lexicon of Frozen Hells

“The sea rehearses all possible landscapes, the sky – invisibly – all possible seas. But the land is a lexicon of frozen hells, and some of us remember.” (Don Patterson)

the winter sea staged perfectly
in all possible hues of white
it has grown so suddenly introvert
that even the old man and his boat
look curiously out of place;
the seagulls’ alabaster bodies
are scattered like dusty rags against the sky
for props

Observe the woman
(her coat the color of aubergines)
hurry down the frozen path
toward the old port
stumbling out of her hurried footprints
left over in last year’s snow

Now, observe her trip
oh, so unwisely trip, over an old shoe,
spilling a thousand memories
of kisses and goodbyes
which pitilessly hook around her wrists
like rabid question marks

Please pretend
you haven’t seen her stuff them in her pockets
with a stealthy look, as she realizes, suddenly,
she’s come back just in time—
after all, she’s only a couple of snowfalls late
for siesta


Yasna Bozhkova is an academic based in Paris. She has published criticism on modernist and contemporary poetry, and has recently started writing poems herself.