Three Poems by Anton Yakovlev


Our childhoods crack their fish heads through the ice
of our routine-embellished brains—
good cats show up on windowpanes,
magical moose surprise us with advice
on days of blight or eaten love
when scimitars we thought we’d left behind
glisten around us until we’re blind
and faith is a rotten baseball glove.

Our childhoods hold our hands when we’re adrift
in romance fjords, sewn into hair-shirt gloom,
when failures tenderize our living room.
Our operating systems sift
through inner icebergs to spit out
our first grade thermos, our grandparents’ tea,
Napoleons baked before a black and white TV—
good jetties in a bay of doubt.

Our childhoods are wrapped in police tape.
The moment someone touches them, we scream
skewed words from a forgotten dream.
We sink like snowmen on a fire escape.
We turn on lovers when they get too close,
build black-hole walls around our memory
of garbage dumps we pioneered at three
in our miniature Harlequin clothes.

What else is there to do but scapegoat fear?
It’s been a lifetime since our self-esteem.
We dream in stripes, except when we don’t dream.
Hyenas frolic; children disappear.



We handle carefully our holiday homecomings,
knowing the homes are not riot-proof.
The nap of anguish produces avalanches.
Leave well enough alone in a dusty bedroom.

But then they tell me I’ve gotten too chummy
with all the aggression we’re asleep to:
creatures comatose in a tree, the cream-cheese
feeling of being related. I’m related to fury

but we’re a dysfunctional family. Piles of Legos
loosely stacked. Later, I’ll rearrange them
worse. There are more ashes among kinfolks
than in any midtown columbarium.

Inherit the inertness. Inherit the inferno.
Inherit the drumming. Inherit the warbling sirens.
Inherit the random fire. Inherit the intervals.
Inherit the silence. Inherit the saxophones.

Inherit the love. Inherit its improbably heavy petals
then hold hands with that inheritance.
Hold hands but note the unexorcized among you
and disconnect as soon as the curtain calls.



Before we know it, her car will screech down the hill
past cows with spots that look like music notation

on her way to a stage kiss. She tells me about
her hardest knock on the head, her corsets, her nightly

tumbles down ladders. We compare the colors
of our wheelbarrows, rummage through

our backpacks for signs of care.
Einstein said gaps between

bodies were an optical illusion.
“Through Eden took their solitary way”

assumes “in the same direction,” how else did Adam and Eve
fall asleep that night and every other

night? Far below, serial riptides hurl their foam at the cliffs
as we walk away from each other.


Anton Yakovlev’s latest poetry chapbook is Chronos Dines Alone (SurVision Books, 2018), winner of the James Tate Prize. He is also the author of Ordinary Impalers (Kelsay Books, 2017) and two prior chapbooks. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Criterion, The Hopkins Review, Measure, Posit, and elsewhere. The Last Poet of the Village, a book of translations of poetry by Sergei Yesenin, was published by Sensitive Skin Books in 2019.