Then, When

Slava Bart


So you are born, though you don’t remember it. Then you are playing in the sandpit and age is something you say to adults, ask others, and get gifts for. Then you are in high school, and what disturbs you now is that soon high school will be over. When you are twenty or so, still unsure of your self image, you know that if life is allowed to run its natural course, you have about three decades until your end-teens, when you can count down on your own two hands, every year like running towards a moving train in a dream.

The day comes when you realize that death is here—any day now. And you waver between suicide and calling somebody you know who is still alive enough to keep you company. You want to pose a question—to yourself, to the empty dusk—but you don’t know what to say. And though you are all expectation, you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what to feel, except to feel as a magnet repulsed—forever—by another. All you know is that it is fair to assume that: you will lose all this when, that none of this will be there then, that it will disappear. Realizing this, you realize how nonsensical, how miraculous, how unimaginable it all is.

And then, in the pauses between thoughts, you feel better—you feel less. So what will it be like, that day, that hour, that moment just before? Will it be the same month and day, and perhaps near the same hour as when I was born? An open window, an open book, a magnifying glass, to make out a language, which has grown strange—

Bol’ prohodit ponemnogu,

Ne navek ona dana.

Est’ konets miatezhnym stonam.

Zluiu muku i trevogu

Pobezhdaiet tishina.

And everything, footsteps in another room, the noise of trees out of sight, a breathing shadow in a heart of light—all spelling one thing, articulating the final syllables.

And then, with little wonder and less surprise, imagining the flat, I see her moving about in the dusk, oblivious of me in her thoughts of me, squinting in the heat of a stove, just like mother; but when I smile—smiling without lips—she pauses, as if listening, and disappears, leaving the stove open.

No-more no more objectionable than going to sleep at the end of a day, when, though you still have things to finish, you can’t stay awake any longer, when you are happy to disappear.


Vyatcheslav Bart was born on December 2nd, 1983, in Kokshetau, Kazakhstan. In 1994 he immigrated to Israel. He is studying for an MA in English Literature at TAU. 




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