P o e m s

P r o s e


















This prose fragment first appeared in The Inconvertible Sky (Talisman House, Publishers, 1997), selected poems by Ivan Zhdanov in English translation.



Arrested World


An arrested person or an arrested thing is that which exists but cannot be put to use. Things also exist in one's memory which cannot be put to use — not unconsciousness, but rather lost recollections — those recollections upon which the bearer of memory himself has placed a ban, whether voluntarily or on the strength of circumstances. Similarly, a collective ban can be placed on the collective memory; that is, a ban on objective history.


Such a ban is the reverse of arrest: the prisoner is not in prison, rather the whole world is imprisoned for him. By its intended purpose a museum is something completely opposite. In a museum, as on the stage, things endlessly work through a long played-out drama. But another sort of museum is possible — a museum of arrested objects. Moreover, if you're not identified with the object in a museum, what is it for? The flight of a dragonfly, for instance, is an impossible thing in an ordinary museum. Or is this a museum for one person only? Like paintings intended for no one, or a screen, or a stage. Solitude, perhaps, lies in this? It would be possible to make a museum catalog of prisoners: strange objects devoid of essence (flowers without fragrance, mounds of tasteless salt), but nonetheless possessing material signs. Do vials or bottles of perfume or cologne constitute arrested fragrance? Or an embalmed smell? Is the life of the flower prolonged there? That's precisely not the case. And photographs? Frames of a film? You can cut them up however you like. You command your memory to throw out a fragment of your life in which something happened that disturbs your conscience, as if the space in which that fragment is located would also vanish. But you cannot command memory. It's alive, it exists apart from you, and sometimes, against your will, you end up in that banned space, where you will see nothing like stasis or immobility. A space of mine-fields to be skirted. All these unpleasant episodes from your life. This world is a mound from which you cannot take just one object; one pull gets the whole lot. Traps everywhere, disguised, under a colorless, empty guise, like thin ice covered with snow. You walk along and suddenly you're caught. Trapped objects, dangerous not because they are invisible, but because they are unclear. If you take one in your hands, in transforms into nothing before your eyes (as a shell casing hisses when it falls in the snow). Others are incorporeal to the point of hyper-weight, and cannot be lifted. And if you manage to lift them, the realm from which pain streams suddenly trembles and comes to life. Why are these objects dangerous? Because by touching them the world renews itself. What does this threaten? Death, although followed by resurrection. So, history and conscience are one. And your memory is not your personal possession,  and it returns to its primordial owner.


Translated by John High and Patrick Henry

Copyright ©  by John High and Patrick Henry, 1997. All rights reserved.