Flow by Shamshad Abdullaev, translated by Alex Cigale


In the half empty cab of the bus an old man rooted in the corner
is trying to fall asleep and this attempt becomes the content
of his dream. Someone had forgotten a photo album on the front seat.
The car searches out the road in lunges propelled
along the dirty village route. A discomforting stirring
of the wind above the dusty plain. Nearby
the skeleton of a bicycle lying at the base of a coarse wall.
Thrown from the front window
toward the rear when the bus makes a sudden right turn. At the photo shoot,
a tall rugby player with a bandaged forehead
at the intersection of two dirt roads
occupied by a single cart,
the characteristic concentration on a woman’s face, sea waves
at the feet of men immersed in thought, a clutch of boys
beyond the edge of a snowy valley, but the old man awakened
has began singing a song, remaining indifferent
toward the indifference of the images sliding past the windows.

Shamshad Abdullaev (b. 1957) is the leading poet of the so-called “Fergana School”. Abdullaev has been awarded the Andrei Bely Prize for his poetry (1994), the annual prize of the journal Znamia for his prose writings (1998), and the Russian Prize of the Boris Yeltsin Center (2006; also short-listed in 2014). In the fall of 2015, he was awarded a residency at the American Academy in Rome by the Joseph Brodsky Memorial Fellowship Fund. Also in 2015, he participated in a Russian Poetry in Translation reading at Columbia University’s The Heyman Center for the Humanities. Translations of his other poems by Alex Cigale have appeared in Atlanta Review, Literary Imagination, The Manhattan Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, Plume, The St. Petersburg Review, TriQuarterly, Words Without Borders, and World Literature Today.

Alex Cigale’s own poems in English appear in Colorado Review, The Common Online, and The Literary Review, and his translations of classic and contemporary Russian poetry in Harvard Review Online, Kenyon Review Online, Modern Poetry in Translation, New England Review, PEN America, Plume, TriQuarterly, The Hopkins Review, Two Lines, Words Without Borders, and World Literature in Translation. In 2015, he was awarded an NEA Fellowship in Literary Translation for his work on the poet of the St. Petersburg philological school, Mikhail Eremin, and guest edited the Spring 2015 Russia Issue of the Atlanta Review, writing about it for one week in Best American Poetry. His first full book, Russian Absurd: Daniil Kharms, Selected Writings came out in the Northwestern University Press World Classics series in 2017. He has previously contributed translations of Alexander Ulanov and Gennady Katsov to issues 4 and 7 of Tupelo Quarterly.