Anastasia Afanasieva, For V.B.


For V.B.

He died as he stood in the water,
he died, standing waist-deep in the water,
he died in one instant, right there by the beach,
immersed up to his waist in cold May water.

What did he hear when it started to hurt
Right there, when his aorta aneurysm burst
Like a pipe, kids yelling, his wife’s voice calling,
Did he hear something we’ve never heard.

What did he think as the air merged with the water,
How did he see the sand, his last sand, did he know
It was his last – beach, minute, and scream,
And his wife’s voice calling, and the open question.

How still the others stayed back while he stepped out,
Not to the shore but off to the side, slipping
Into some breach between the air and the water,
In one instant, when it burst open, when it suddenly cracked.

Who can say, here is the gap, it sealed in one instant,
I touch the air, it is solid, I touch the air
Like the wall of our earthly aquarium:
Its unearthly glass is remarkably sturdy and clear.


Born in 1982, Anastasia Afanasieva (author) lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and writes poetry and prose in Russian. She is the author of six books and the winner of numerous major literary awards and prizes, including the Debut Prize and the Russian Award. Her poetry has been translated into English, German, Italian, Ukrainian and Belarusian. In the US, her poems in translation have appeared in Cimarron Review, Jacket Magazine and Blue Lyra Review. She is the translator of Ilya Kaminsky’s book Music of the Wind (Ayluros, 2012). Afanasieva’s poem “Untitled,” in English translation by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky, won First Place in the 2014 Joseph Brodsky / Stephen Spender Prize Competition.

Olga Livshin’s poetry and translations are published in Mad Hatters’ Review, Jacket Magazine and Breakwater Review, among other journals. They are included in Contemporary Russian Poetry: An Anthology, The Anthology of Chicago and The Persian World Anthology of Poetry (in Persian translation).

Andrew Janco is a Digital Scholarship Librarian at Haverford College. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Chicago. With Olga Livshin, he has translated a number of Russian poets. His translations are published in Contemporary Russian Poetry: An Anthology and several journals.


IMAGE: By photo © 2003 by Tomasz Sienicki [user: tsca, mail: tomasz.sienicki at] (Own work) [CC BY 2.5 (, CC BY 2.5 pl (, GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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