On Public Grounds : Magazine : A Public Space

On Public Grounds

Focus Olga Zondberg
Translated from the Russian by Natasha Randall

Come over here towards me, if you please. All right… Good, tell me, are there many of you here? One, two, three, four, five, six… Fine, that’s plenty to get started, call the others over. Come here, quickly. Okay, so, this is the way we’re going to do this… Who was the first to get here? You? Then you will now go to office-supply store in the Bolshaya Dorogomilovskaya, opposite the store for clothing of the independent style, do you know the one? You know it, excellent. Pass to the right into the second section, where a large gray cat will be sleeping on the counter near the cash register, and then begin to cry. Does that make sense? Excellent. Who’s next? Here, take this address, here’s one key and here’s another. You go, you press the button, and they’ll say to you: “Wouldn’t you say it’s good that we met?” You will ask: “Where?” They’ll tell you: “On the escalator.” Ask: “And when?” “Two months ago.” You will answer: “I don’t recall it.” And they will then congratulate you on the occasion of your birthday, and you will recall that in the last year you have personally had the occasion to congratulate about ten people on their birthdays, not more, three hundred and sixty-six to this ten comes to, now, thirty-six and six-tenths, and you will start crying. Who is the oldest here? How old are you, twenty? Nineteen. Even better. In the underpass, I’ll tell you exactly where later, loiter near the little shop of Goods for Life. Listen to what people are saying and as soon as you hear someone say that this, on the contrary, should be a little shop of Goods for Death, because it’s sometimes so tempting to purchase poison, begin to cry. Now you. You go home right now, and along the way glance, as usual, into the store, where that sweet girl has usually already turned on Radio Hits FM, and at the moment you appear Kortnev will sing Dassen in Russian, and then you will cry. Who is psychologically steady among you? Ah, everyone… But what if you’re honest? Here, you’ll do, as far as I can tell. You see that person there—yes, the one in the black jacket, walking back and forth, bothered, shaking off his cap from minute to minute, do you see him? Approach him, put out your hand and say hello. What? Aha, having been introduced, you’ll be more comfortable, only do not forget to remove your glove. Like that, yes. Oh, and shorter fingernails, if you please. If you put out your hand with claws like that do you know what they’ll think about our corporation? Well it’s good that you don’t know, but I know. Then you will chat, and about twenty, twenty-five minutes into your stroll, just when he is describing how in early childhood they nearly didn’t give him a final diagnosis due to his unwillingness to converse with the doctors on the subject of the identification of the specific attributes of a plastic beast and the positions of different parts of its body, and how he wouldn’t even now talk to them on this subject, you should begin to cry, and don’t run away from him quickly, or others will start to cry, possibly many, yes. Are there two of you left? Superb. Then you go to the snack bar across the road, yes, but do not hurry, there’s no need, and there, each day, at the same exact time, at the same exact table, sits a group that changes very little, so postindustrial in itself, and their voices are tender and agitated, like those who are the only ones to have survived, although there is less winter yet to go than there is behind us. Sit next to them. Excellent. And you—you get a ticket for the seven o’clock, for the penultimate row in the middle, and begin to cry at the words “the quantity of attempts is limited, but how can you force parachuting without the earth below.” Of course, they will be in this film, for sure, do not get mixed up, if you please. What if suddenly…? Then try not to miss them. If something happens, take action accordingly. So… is everything clear to everyone? Go on, get rid of those terrible overalls, they have already brought you the new uniforms, of course you will not freeze—you see, there, it’s silvery—yes, also the jacket, which is as long as a coat and warm too, but it has light gray long fur on the collar and cuffs, warm and downy caps of the same color, with weeping willows and our logotype on the appliqué. Let’s change clothes and disperse slowly to our objectives. You are really very lucky that you are participating in this, this will be real-life promotion, not that nonsense, such as you have been busy with this second week, subjecting yourselves to the dangers of catching cold and falling gravely ill, at the height of the influenza epidemic, the deepening of the crisis, and the period of avitaminosis, exchanging half-empty bundles for the complete “Gold Java,” attracting attention that isn’t necessary to anyone, swinging your arms, and nearly being converted into wind-threshing machines for the granular snow inside the regime of free-running progress on the draft of February public territories.

No. 02

No. 02


Olga Zondberg has published two collections of poetry in Russia, including one with ARGO-RISK. Translations of her work can be found in An Anthology of Contemporary Russian Woman Poets (University of Iowa Press). ​


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