Genya Turovskaya, Poetry


Whiting Awards 2020

Genya Turovskaya. Photo: Willis Sparks.

Genya Turovskaya was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and grew up in New York City. She is the author of The Breathing Body of This Thought (Black Square, 2019) and the chapbooks Calendar (Ugly Duckling, 2002), The Tides (Octopus, 2007), New Year’s Day (Octopus, 2011), and Dear Jenny (Supermachine, 2011). Her poetry and translations of contemporary Russian poets have appeared in Chicago Review, Conjunctions, A Public Space, and other publications. Her translation of Aleksandr Skidan’s Red Shifting was published by Ugly Duckling in 2008. She is a cotranslator of Elena Fanailova’s Russian Version (UDP, 2009, 2019), which won the University of Rochester’s Three Percent Award for Best Translated Book of Poetry in 2010. She is also a cotranslator of Endarkenment, The Selected Poems of Arkadii Dragomoshchenko (Wesleyan, 2014). She lives in Brooklyn.


“Failure to Declare”

I am beside myself

I have no beast in this ring, no horse in this race

Nobody always waves goodbye

The stars are different here

The wind is gusting in reverse

I left something out, something crucial, crossing through the customs gate

A figure, behind me, waving, reflected in the plexiglass partition

I could recognize the shape but not the face

I didn’t need to; I knew it

An empty window

Limp curtain flapping in the breeze

I pitched forward, tried to right myself, but kept falling without end

Keep falling to no end

There was nothing there to catch on, snag against

A tantalizing glitter, a blatant blank

The fortune in the fortune cookie says Learn Chinese

To have a fever

And When one can one must

Where do I live?

Where do I go when I go away?

The departures board was wiped clean

There was no message

But something happens to interrupt all well-laid plans

I was alert to the fog, a fugue of massing clouds, to a change in pressure, coalescing rivulets of rain

A physical vibration, the faintest tremor of the ground beneath my feet, the shifting of tectonic plates

The chafe, the plea in pleasure, for pleasure’s sake

Or was the fortune: When one must one can?

I recognized the empty window, the tantalizing glitter of my own reflection

The shape but not the face

I knew it, that there would be no message, no way to get a message back

I fell I fall I left I leave something out

The ground beneath my feet gives way

Where were we?

Here I am?

Where do I go?

Who is the witness to this story that I tell myself?

Is this rupture?


Attention? Inattention?

The bonds grown slack?

There is an errand I’ve been sent on

An errancy

I am not spared

I am inside the observation tower beside myself astride the horse

I do not have a horse in this

Nobody ever always waves goodbye goodbye

The stars are different here, the stars do not make sense

I can connect these burning dots

There is a hummingbird

There a dancing bear

There a face with night pouring out of the black sockets of its eyes

What are these strange celestial figurations?

Is any crossing safe?

When does the dancing bear claw its way back to nature?

When does a hummingbird become a hurricane?

Which is the miracle and which the natural disaster?

What is at stake?