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Brief Lives: Anton Chekhov
by Patrick Miles

A Moth on the Fence: Memoirs by Nikolay Andreyev
translated by Patrick Miles

Some Published Poems

				    Buying Icons

	The chair she perched on was pure Soviet art:
	caterpillar green and tough as chert.
	‘No...I am happy…we have everything,
	of course…’  She smoked.  Her friend smiled at me through
	her paling-teeth.  Then, swivelling her ring,
	she said: ‘Only…I don’t know whether you
	will understand, but…well…an actress must
	wear something different…a detail,
	one thing perhaps, to show that she has taste…’
	The icons glinted on the antique mantel.
	At last she laughed, and flashed her eyes at me:
	‘It’s part of my profession!  One must care
	for one’s exterior, ne pravda li?’ - 
	then took a drag and twitched her spun-gold hair
	back.  ‘So we thought a bit…and wrote a few
	things like that down, in case…  To show to you.’

	I took the wadge of paper.  ‘Valentina’,
	I read in English.  ‘Revlon deep skin cleanser
	(some bottles).  Mauve sude boots, size six.  Two silk
	head squares from Liberty’s.  Some bronze mascara.
	A brooch to go on black.  Miss Dior talc.
	Women in Love…’  I turned the page.  ‘Tamara:
	a pair of portwine velvet trousers (waist,
	etcetera), a tin of Earl Grey tea,
	a blue eye-liner, vitamins with yeast,
	Chagall, and Stevie Wonder’s new LP.’
	Then: ‘Kira - tights, Mat’ Mar’ya by S. Hakkel…
	Natasha - mini-parasol (folds up)…
	Tatyana - Marmite…  Sonya - fishing-tackle…
	Yelena - ironing-board and Wedgewood cup…
	a pipe…Lillets…Nabokov…jeans…Ribena…’

	The notes slipped, fell onto the floor.  ‘Of course,
	not everything,’ she smiled, ‘is…necessary!’
	I picked the bits up in the pregnant pause.
	The icons beckoned, but we all seemed wary…
	Then suddenly (glance, titter to the other)
	she said: ‘In England, what do husbands do
	if they find out their wife has got a lover?
	What happens?  What’s the English point of view?’


	ne pravda li? - don’t you agree?

	(Published in Gare du Nord, vol. 1.1, 1997)

		A Rowan-tree In Suburbia

	Flodden and Culloden massacre the rose.
	Look at the surgeon’s saws of leaves!

	What you thought was a yellowing out
	flips into sheer scarlet terror.

	Then come the fronds, like bracken
	laid on forest graves.


	(Published in Iota, no. 35, 1996, and Oasis, no 87, 1997)


	Jeff!  The san.people have disinfected the computers
	again, but more action is percolating on the j/v.
	I’ve got a gentleman’s agreement with Kozlov
	(the road there was strictly White Bear territory)
	for 7.99% and if the TPI (U.S.) and NAGE alliance
	materializes, which is 85% certain, then more,
	whereas Trench are rumoured to have only 4.5633.
	But Shchurin was away for the month, so I couldn’t suss
	the JDCP or bonuses or sign any protos of course
	though we dipsticked the approved local costs
	and the new laws on tax and re-registration,
	also Boris says Shchurin (daughter at Harvard)
	is after 0.7 gross production for Social Development
	and they want the hardware before they’ll sign
	but Customs won’t clear without sight of the contract,
	and the tax/Customs fixer’s gone awol.
	I’m growing a beard.  It’s growing.


	(Published in Oasis, no. 87, 1997, and London Magazine, 37 (1998), 
nos 11/12) Pieces Of Mandel’shtam 1 I have forgotten what I had to say. The blind, clipped swallow will fly back to where the shades dwell, and together they will dance and sing a mad night song. There are rooks within the wood and their daft syllables deny all measure. The horses’ manes are clear as glass. An empty boat drifts in the dried up river. Among the grasshoppers the word lies stunned. And slowly grows, as though a tent or church, then flings itself like wild Antigone, then falls as a dead swallow at my feet with Stygian softness and a sprig of green. Mortals have power to love and to recognise, for them pure sound is poured through slender fingers. But I have forgotten what I have to say, and fleshless thought returns to dwell with shades. 2 Star with star - a mighty nexus, Flint-glitter on the old, old path, Language of flint and of the air, Flint with water, ring with cusp. Upon the soft slate of the clouds The milky drawing of a pencil Is not worlds’ tutelage, it is The gibberish of drowzing sheep. We standing sleep in thickest night Beneath a warm sheep cap. Back to its wood-keep purls the spring, Like a fine chain, a chiff-chaff, speech. Here fear writes, here the fracture writes With little, leaden, milky stick, Here the first version ripens For scholars of the flowing stream. Like a dead hornet from the hive, The gaudy day has been swept out. And night the gryphon-vulture brings Burning chalk, and feeds the slate. I break the night, the burning chalk, To write down instantly and firm. The hungry water flows, cavorting And playing like an animal. And I too study now the diary Of scratches on a summer’s slate, Language of flint and of the air, Seam of dark and seam of light; And I too thrust my fingers in The flint path of the old, old song, As in a wound, and close the nexus Flint with water, ring with cusp. 3 Yes, I have died. The purple inks have set, The stars of death are subject to great Themis, The sharp-cut greatcoats have returned to shit, My skull’s indentures tease their own clogged domes. Chitter, my charmers, through that airy fleece! The days are yellow-mouthed, prickly as chaff, The finches finchate. Why, we need not ask, Nor where a baby’s smile ends. All was premise. Flowers are immortal. Down by the Savoy I saw a rose left in a new Rolls Royce. And what was just a promise, was a promise. [From poems 1920-1937] (Published in Angel Exhaust, no. 12, 1995, Envoi, no. 113, 1996,
Tandem, no. 4/5, 1997) Siberian Cat Superbus, super-puss, he sits on his own white sill out-eyeballing the whole winter out there. Recks it not, recks nothing. Yet what burnt villages ripple across his back, their sedge-char and sticks and rubble. He knows. Ages, it seems, a continent ago, he learned his lesson, and now inside the still sinus-curve, deeper than undercoat or mantra, pure power densens. His gaze is catch-all, his tail cobra, his lynx-points plume to a cruelty. And we must not: touch him, so we’re told. [1994] (Published in Oasis, no. 87, 1997, and Hanging Loose, no. 70, 1997) To A Russian Feminine Gender O, no doubt All your endings were melting soft: But why did You have to decline so regularly? [1968] (Published in Krax, no. 36, 1999)