Stranger Things Have Happened

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The glory of vocabulary/The florist and the greenery/The allegory of the gory/And the forested scenery/With everything else clean gone/Except for the one/The ocean and its froth/The continental shelf/The path forth and the earth/The well of wealth the self.”—Philip Nikolayev

The Art of Forgetting

By Philip Nikolayev

Nikolayev It had my wife’s eyes
“It had my wife’s eyes . . . .

“The grey Spring of asphodels/is still far off and transparent./Perhaps the wave still boils/and you’ll catch the rustling of the sand./But here, like Persephone, my soul/has begun to circle round,/and the kingdom of the dead will hold/no shapely, sun-tanned hands.”―From Meganom, by Osip Mandelstam, transl. Alistair Noon

Philip Nikolayev Weekly Hubris author pic

BOSTON Massachusetts—(Weekly Hubris)—1 March 2022—

Stranger Things Have Happened

According to the feed item,
Mr. Basu, a 41 year old Bangalore man,
has married the rat he believes to be
a reincarnation of his first wife,
killed in a car accident.

The father of four young kids, Mr. Basu
felt devastated, destroyed,
until one day some months later
a female rat came to his doorstep.
“It had my wife’s eyes and nose,” he said.
He understood quickly and without doubt
who it was.

“I offered it my wife’s favorite cookies,
and it devoured them
just like she would have done.”

There was immediate mutual affection
and the familiar expression of the eyes.
Mr. Basu consulted temple officials,
who supported him in his decision
and performed the ceremony.
The two were reunited,
their reciprocal consent beyond question.

Laugh all you like, you who like to laugh,
and rage, you who like to rage,
and drone on, you with the correct religion,
from positions of your
presumably sounder knowledge
and saner minds, you who cannot
imagine marrying a rat.

I wonder how they are doing now,
but the newsfeed is silent,
the human mess has moved on
and forgotten them. I imagine them
living happily and peacefully
ever after
in a secluded cottage somewhere.

I only hope, dear, come what may,
always to cling to you with the same
mad loyalty and to show the same
blind faith in the face of death.
I only hope.

Nikolayev - The Japanese Gods of Creation
The Japanese Gods of Creation. (Photo: Metropolitan Museum Of Art/science Photo Library.)


When even decent people lapse
into a blame-assigning mode,
large human networks clap their flaps
and shaky feels the private bond.

Meanwhile behind the scenes, alone,
within its vast domain confined,
something sifts through us clone by clone
and soon computes the blames assigned.

But I’ve outgrown this antique frame,
to which I also used to cling,
and now externalize no blame:
I am to blame for everything.

The mirth and ruth of youth
The wage and rage of age
The truth and the untruth
The cage the cave the sage

Nikolayev - Squirrels Playing in a Persimmon Tree-2
“Squirrels Playing in a Persimmon Tree,” by Todo Hokuyo.

With everything else clean gone
Except for the one

The glory of vocabulary
The florist and the greenery
The allegory of the gory
And the forested scenery

With everything else clean gone
Except for the one

The ocean and its froth
The continental shelf
The path forth and the earth
The well of wealth the self

With everything else clean gone
Except for the one

Nikolayev - Autumn Grasses in Moonlight
“Autumn Grasses in Moonlight,” by Shibata Zeshin.


Aging, one discovers
that there are two sides
to grief: the grief itself
and the self feeling sorry
for itself grieving. The system
goes into resonance,
the self itself and the self
perceiving itself as if
from without, unable
to resist sympathizing
with itself, sorry for the I
itself, and that’s it, that’s all,
or almost all anyway,
that there is to grief.

Philip Nikolayev is a Russo-American bilingual poet living in Boston. He is a polyglot and translates poetry from several languages. Nikolayev’s poems have appeared in literary periodicals internationally, including Poetry, The Paris Review, Harvard Review, and Grand Street. His verse collections include Monkey Time (Verse/Wave Books, winner of the 2001 Verse Prize) and Letters from Aldenderry (Salt). He co-edits Fulcrum: an annual of poetry and aesthetics, a serial anthology of poetry and critical writing. A bilingual edition of his The Star of Dazzling Ecstasy: 79 Poems by Alexander Pushkin, Translated by Philip Nikolayev was published by Tiptop Street Press. (Author Head Shot Augment: René Laanen.)