Solitude is poor…
Is solitude poor?
Who can prove it?
Just listen to the torrent of tears that comes out of it and how they spread! Behold the countless marble-white hands that bridge their space in the pain convulsions; Look at the torn veils of hope moving back and forth; Look at the throngs of thought that are rushing into it with brute force, beating ruthlessly and ever faster… Where to get?
Dear Lord, where to go?
Close the door, sit together, hold your breath – and listen!
A deer runs from the forest.
Looking for something, through the lush, windy and lush forest. The deer runs, tramples and crushes the flowers under their feet. The leaves of the trees rustle and murmur. Within the forest, the imposing branches of an old tree wave almost invisibly.
The deer just stopped for a while.
has come? He doesn’t know
It thinks it is done. It darts forward, side to side. Leaps and runs, it moves on – and stops once again. Its eyes open wide. It stands motionless, trembling.
What was that? A bullet has just come out of the forest.
The faint sound of some breaking, some crashing – and all coming towards him, coming towards him. Suddenly, the deer’s wide-open eyes see something they’ve never seen before, and its ears hear something they’ve never heard before. The lush forest fills with something the deer had never known before – and blood oozes out of its body.
that This was the reason why he had to run through the lush green forest.
Born in Bukovina in 1863, Olha Kobilianska was a feminist writer who worked in a variety of literary genres. Trilingual in German, Polish and Ukrainian, he wrote his early novels in German. When she moved to Chernivtsi in 1891 to live in the house that has since become her memorial museum, she began writing in Ukrainian. She was influenced by the novelist Georg Sand and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
This week’s poem is the last of a group of four prose poems by Kobilinska, collectively titled My Lilies. The poems, translated into English by distinguished translator and scholar Olha Rudkevich, were published by Ukrainian Literature: A Journal of Translation, and are available to read online.
While many prose poems are flat and exquisite on the page, Olha Kobylinska’s poems stand out and are addressed to the audience. At times surrealist narrative fiction absorbs the storyteller’s traditional craft, and engulfs its readers with nicely paused and abrupt rhetorical questions.
The current poem begins with a question, which appears to answer the opinion voiced by someone “off stage”, that “solitude is poor”. Over and over again, but with an additional question mark, the hypothetical statement is challenged, even ridiculed.
He suggests “poor” rather than “pathetic”, as Koblienska displays landscapes of solitude with allegorical features – “edges of tears”, “marble-white hands that are in pain convulsions of their own”. Bridging the Space”, “The Torn Curtains of Hope” and “Blocks of Thoughts”. It is a panic-stricken, chaotic solitude. Its pictures may be of war. The hands are both dead (“marble-white”) and conversely alive (“painfully convulsive”) as they struggle to “bridge” the space, unconnected. The veils of hope behave like turbulent children, “shaking back and forth” and thoughts are violent and indirect – no thoughts at all. The question asked about beating the “bunch of thoughts” – “Where to go?” – Builds its bridge to new story about deer.
The storyteller draws attention again, telling his audience to “Shut the door, sit together, hold your breath – and listen!” The audience themselves may be in danger, but the story has sheltered them. Whatever magic action begins with words, A deer runs from the forest, Viewers can’t be sure that it will end with “Happily After”.
While the fabled setting is now lush and green, the deer in its long flight resemble the views in the opening rows. Nature watches fearlessly. When the deer stops, it does not know whether it has come or not. It is always powered up, and essentially powerless. The narrative continually reverses expectations of order and direction.
The shot rings, but the deer doesn’t fall immediately. It stands motionless, trembling, and we hear its question as if we are now inside its head: “What was that?” Its eyes see and its ears hear things that may be revelations, but are fragmented beyond the necessary mental processing. When blood oozes from the deer’s body it seems to be partly allegorical: it symbolizes shock as well as death. The deer understands his actions in retrospect: he thought he was looking for something, but he was being chased. The final comment, “Listen” once again, warns the audience that the story is not finished for them. Although we never meet the hunter with a gun, it is a political parable about power and powerlessness. It is a warning against including belief in the power of stories.