Painkillers and Sleeping Pills

Kateryna Babkina

Translated from Ukranian by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps

From the city that never lets you sleep,
which caresses so sweetly and presses so harshly,
friends asked for so many different things: sauces, cameras,
cosmetics, some fucking mosaic,
telephones, seeds, Keds. But Katya
asked for painkillers and sleeping pills.
Lord, lead us into Brooklyn without our GPS,
change our visas from temporary to permanent.
I would give her the addresses of all the bordellos and bars;
I’d bring her a seagull or even a dusky princess,
but she wanted painkillers and sleeping pills.
All the migrant workers, whores, and scholarship students,
managers, nannies, and diaspora grannies
who came here to die happy,
suffer from pains, and curse through their prayers at night,
take painkillers, and dream about sleeping pills.
Katya, night tangles the nets in the ocean,
it nauseates you before you order and drink
on the farthest street in the dirtiest bar.
We all hurt the same—you, me, and the kids
of the Chinatown fishermen, who don’t sleep
to catch the freshest seafood for the markets at dawn.

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