Matvei Yankelevich

ON PEOPLE (observations)


People look forlorn on the subway.


People say, did you like it?
They also say, which did you like better?
That's the way they talk these days.


People want to have children.
I want two, she says.
I want lots, he says.


People are still children.
People say I like that sweater. Where did you buy it, they ask.
Then the people make a mental note of this information, storing it like an acorn for their illustrious future sweater-wearing hibernation when they will become senile and, resentful and they will not have the sweaters they liked.


People follow their thoughts and are misled by them.
Their sentences fall into pre-molded patterns where meaning is scarce and cushy. Or else: shapes that don't fit the slots and holes provided by speech. People get distracted easily: they start the sentence on one subject and a word, death or kitty-cat, leads them altogether astray.


More about people:

People look at each other
They don't know what to say

People smile at each other
They do not know why they are smiling

People don't know why they exist
so they smoke a cigarette

They wait for the
next train

They wait for the

next thought


People don't know how to deal with miracles. They gape in awe, and then forget it. Just like with death, people don't know how to deal with it. Their mouths open and because of their embarrassment at this gaping yellow mouth they begin to talk. Naturally, people say the most shameful things, things they might regret afterwards if only they did not forget.


People sleep fitfully
People wake up and go to work

People die of natural causes
People die of airliner catastrophes
People die of carelessness
People die of bad (or expired) medicine
People die by their own hands
People die of trench warfare, of envy, of ennui
People die of madness or
People die of pulmonary disease

Let the day die
one closing eye
says to its brother
in arms.

An actor dies in his sleep
He was a great actor
People don't want other people
to know what hit them
He died peacefully, at least

People expire of exhaustion, dead tired
People die of thirst,
for coffee

People die in their sleep
in their dreams
at the movies


Every movie is about people. I'm tired of movies about people. I have to see people all the time around me. Let's make some movies about objects, and then later we can go back to making movies about people.


The Jew with one short foot.
The old black man dressed head to toe in impeccable brown, asleep on the subway.
The pretty girl with short blonde hair in a museum guard uniform.
The lady picking her skirt away from her underwear.
Chardin's rabbits in death as in sleep, calm, gray background like the gray carpet marred with wet footsteps.


[ end ]

Matvei Yankelevich is the editor of the Eastern European Poets Series at Ugly Duckling Presse, where he co-edits 6x6 and helps design and print books, and sweeps up the bits of paper all over the floor. His translations
of Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky are forthcoming in books from Northwestern Univ. Press and Green Integer. His translation of Mayakovsky's Cloud in Pants is in Circumference. His own poems appear in small mags, on pencils, and on-line.

UDP can be found at: