Daneil Gohman

                                                  Daneil Gohman

Konstantin kulakov

DISTANCES

 

I.

 

Tula, Russia

 

Exiting the hospital tower, turning from

the terror of bloodwork and shots, we whisk home

 

the sled with supple milk bags marked

МОЛОКО through the slush, a sheet of

 

deadly snow — kicked adrift by wind. Moving

beside me, there are worlds mother, womb-

 

like, a marian-blue light, circling—out

from the grocery:

 

The oscillating memory, Your Presence Lord.

 

II.

 

Oxford

 

It was never sense, but the

Singing of light. At six, I abandoned

the fraught letters of scrabble strewn

before our family of four

 

to color the ambulances smudged

blue and green through a window in rain:

a poet dizzied by the bilingual

burdened by the weight of sprouting

 

                                               word-wings.

 

Praise

 

III.

 

And my father, Oxford-educated, returning

with us to Russia, not a penny but

 

indebtedness writ to his leg. This was a

long-winter, brutalized homeland, tipping over

 

from KGB & Socialism to The New Oligarchs

& Oprichniks: But in my village of birth,

 

there were mud roads blanketed

in snow. Hot baths in the quiet and

 

the oratory of courage, filling the churches:

 

a grandfather smuggling scriptures

into his prison cell, and a father, setting

 

plays at a base in Vladivostok, waking

with money hidden in his chest.

 

“He is holy,” they said.

 

Selah

 

 

IV.

 

New York

 

To inherit the opulence, the progress of

empire is to inherit the weight of the

 

the underbelly, richly textured:

the toil, the toil, the toil of black and brown

 

bodies exploited, abandoned, pressed against walls, jailed, killed,

invisibilized—but resisting with raised fist. Here, to be born

 

is to find a foot, shifting, in the geography of color

and class: othered by immigrant Russianness,  

 

privileged by male whiteness, where bullets

are not new to graze her Brooklyn projects and where,

 

reaching your voicemail, I call your trendy uptown office, and you

call back: “dear wolf, they aren’t shocked that you called,                 

 

but by the weekly fact of gunshots.”

 

 

V.

 

Now, stretched by digital

distances, disfigured by

 

Time’s compromise, I walk

course Manhattan Island,

 

haunted by flashes of

fatherhood in decay, thirsty

 

for power and fame. At home,

I light tree and inhale, my hand

 

pressed to the heat of your thigh.

 

 

VI.

 

“And they, for a moment, felt

The truth.

And for that moment came

Into the world, & like most

Of the rest of us

In the world.

 

They were actually, crying.”

 

—“Oklahoma Enters the Third World,”

Amiri Baraka

 

 

Where

is the continuity, what word,

what image will string the marian-blue

 

songs of innocence to Baraka’s

“money-dick slavery” of experience,

 

the thrownness into the world: a torn-heart

pain to be carried

into the night . . .

 

 

VII.

 

“ . . . the secret silence,

outshining all brilliance with the intensity of their darkness.”

Dionysius the Areopagite

 

But when the truth emerges, roughened, a

            flickering icon, a gold-peeling talisman

 

carried gracefully into the battlefield of

the everyday, it will not be what is locked

 

into lone words, but it will be the dark-light, li-ark, emanating,

reflecting between faces, the iris

 

meeting the iris. And there, at the site of pain, I will lift it all

to You, Lord:

 

this is to the Soviets who violated my kin

and the Marxism that graces my way, this is to

the capitalists that exploit our poor,

 

and the religious liberty, the American free speech

that grants my family home, I lift it all:

 

the Image of God, roughened,

but irrevocable in us,

 

the marian-blue light, circling-out,

            and in the light,

 

                        the darkness.


 

OLORUN

                    —Owner of the Sun, Yoruba Religion

                                                         For Amiri Baraka

 


Purple night. Harlem/Columbia sounds of rat peeing in steel pipes.

Black music is Black power: sexual, liberated through lively breast notes—

something was just repressed: the embodied, intellectual fuck the Man

of pure being/singing. Still, mechanical Wall Street implodes into Olorun.

 

 


Konstantin Kulakov is an award-winning Russian-American poet born in Zaoksky, Soviet Russia in 1989. He is the recipient of the Greg Grummer Poetry Award, judged by Brian Teare. Kulakov's debut collection of poems, Excavating the Sky, was published by Dialogue Foundation Books December 4, 2015 and lauded by Kirkus, Cornel West, and David Rosenberg. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Phoebe, Tule Review, The Christian Century, Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, Tidal Basin Review, and WildSpice. Select poems have been translated into Russian, including a forthcoming translation into German. He lives in New York.