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Translation of the Week: Vasyl Makhno “A Yacht Sails at Night”

For this week’s Translation of the Week we feature the poem  “A Yacht Sails at Night” from our upcoming publication Paper Bridge, by Ukrainian poet Vasyl Makhno; translated by Olena Jennings. 

Vasyl Makhno is a Ukrainian poet, prose writer, essayist, and translator. He is the author of fourteen collections of poetry and most recently the book of  poems One Sail House (2021). He has also published a book of short stories, The House in Baiting Hollow (2015), a novel, The Eternal Calendar (2019), and four books of essays, The Gertrude Stein Memorial Cultural and Recreation Park (2006), Horn of Plenty (2011), Suburbs and Borderland (2019), and Biking along the Ocean (2020). Makhno’s works have been widely translated into many languages; his books have been published in Germany, Israel, Poland, Romania, Serbia and the US.  Two poetry collections, Thread and Other New York Poems (2009) and Winter Letters (2011), were published in English translation. He is the recipient of  Kovaliv Fund Prize (2008), Serbia’s International Povele Morave Prize in Poetry (2013), the BBC Book of the Year Award (2015), and Ukrainian-Jewish Literary Prize “Encounter” (2020).  Makhno currently lives with his family in New York City.

Olena Jennings is the author of the poetry collection Songs from an Apartment (2017) and the chapbook Memory Project (2018). Her novel Temporary Shelter was released in 2021 from Cervena Barva Press. Her translations of Vasyl Makhno’s poetry have been published in Consequence, Asymptote, and other journals. She is the founder and curator of the Poets of Queens reading series.

Нічне плавання яхти

океан облизав прибережний пісок
і на крилах мартинів присох –
яхти пливуть на ніч до бухти
в бортовому журналі – одна мілина
тріпотять вітрила – лопатки млина –
поспішають щоби прибути

там – надкушений берег Sea Gate
попелясте сукно морських кирей
там з портових містечок і селищ
долинають музика і світла
там в комети хвіст як мітла
перламутрова зелень

серед літніх дощів і темних комах
погасили світло в тих дальніх домах
не чекають ні яхти ні зливи
їй байдуже до цих моряків
що шукають бухту яких які
прибувають з нічним припливом

досягли уночі кількох вузлів
від безсонної ночі змокрілі та злі
ніби поруч той берег і селище те
але плили на світло на страх і ризик
то ввижалися їм на хвилях іриси
то на небі – звізда що їх веде

задирали голови – а що в головах?
коли яхта тримається на словах
коли бухту прикрили теплі дощі
але треба доплисти – зійти на берег
і вони лишають свій слід на папері
бортового журналу –

A Yacht Sails at Night

The ocean licks up the shore’s sand
That dried on the wings of gulls
Yachts sail into the bay for the night
In the logbook—only shallow water
The sails flap, windmill blades
Hurry to arrive

There along the gnawed coast of Sea Gate
On the ashy garment of sea crests
There from port cities and villages
Music and light echo
There a comet’s tail—a broom
Of mother-of-pearl greenery

Among the summer rains and night insects
The lights go dark in these distant homes
There, no one waits for yachts or storms
No one cares for the sailors
Who seek the bay as they arrive
With the evening tide

At night they increase their speed by several knots
Wet and angry from a sleepless night
As if close to that shore and that village
But they sail toward light, toward fear and danger
Imagining rainbows on the waves
Or in the sky, a star that leads the way

They look up and what are they thinking?
When do yachts keep their word?
When the bay is covered with warm rains
And they need to get to the shore
They leave traces of their journey on the pages
Of the logbook
At night

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