On the Theft of a Munch–Oslo, 1994 by Ilya Kutik
The Winter Games. On Olympus
the gods sit and watch, as snowflakes stick
to figures fitted out for Nordic skiing,
But the skiers’ mouths are stuffed with snow...
For the scream has been stolen. Stealthily they took
the scream. The earth, in January’s grip,
was sucking February like a piece of candy
when in neighboring Sweden a cat awoke.
In the half-asleep roiled air,
made as thick as his fur by the snow,
the white Norwegian geese slept,
and did not wake Oslo with their fat quacks.
Why a cat? Because he looks like Ibsen:
just like him—sideburns—fat cheeks...
A blizzardy night in whose blue-black air ...
A Tragedy—really?—The snap
of three fingers—snap—and the air parts,
revealing a stage
on which they move as if on stars.
It’s illuminated like a world where one
harvests enough to last a year
in a land where the people wake up and lie down
Light imitates the goosy gait of a basset hound:
they’re both waves. And thieves imitate light:
they’re both unseen…Loki sneaks up,
and kills Balder—and there’s no light,
and now this—the scream... Argue, arguments!..
Quarrel, o quarrels,
the death of tragedy has come. Howl, octet,—
your ninth has disappeared!…Like any body
the scream has been carried out, feet first,
wrapped in a white shroud into a white celebration
of Snow, in which—no matter how you try to talk—
your mouth is struck through like the Norwegian letter Ø,
and everyone is a minnow, a redgilled perch...