Olga Maslova

You Don’t Travel Light, Life
August 23, 2023 Maslova Olga

You Don’t Travel Light, Life


is a cumbersome business.
Your slight frame of five feet four,
a hundred and eight pounds
needs the support of many anchors,
like the bells on the feet of a medieval falcon
from the print in the Vatican’s gift shop
you saw on your first trip to Rome
after you had abandoned your tenure
to the bewilderment of colleagues.


Golden bells, masked as an adornment,
are fastened tightly to track the bird’s movements,
in case he ventures beyond the map’s crumpled corners
steering off the sky’s starry surface:
on the other side of the blue damask
seraphs are busy with housekeeping.
When angels roll the sky to take to the carpet cleaners,
together with the sun, moon, stars, and planets,
what’s left behind, what shape,
is it a square? rectangle? like the one
above your desk, from where
you moved my photo to the basement?


Wallpaper there is a deep sage color,
pristine, untarnished, not worn out
by sun and air and your daily greetings:
“good morning, love,” “good night, mon coeur,
je t’aime.
Sometimes what is removed becomes
a perfect space for something else:
at fifty-four your breasts
were gone, and the remaining hollows
turned out to be a perfect match
to vessel mine,
we both were happy.


On the wrong side of the sky
the falcon’s golden bells are dull,
no tintinnabulation
is heard. Just endless silence.
It seems so easy, all one needs is rope.


And yet you choose to live,
your white shirt billows
like sails over the tight hull
of your black jeans.
You step on crumbling Roman stairs,
clutching tightly the framed print
of that falcon, one of many
provisions for the day, with which
you load your suitcase for the journey,
among them white t-shirts, one for each day,
jeans, blue and black, all washed and ironed,
the wholegrain pasta, organic sugar, olive oil,
Bach’s rescue remedy, for your immune protection:
all this cargo, requiring a day-to-day attention
takes the place of tiny perfect breasts.

Olga Maslova is a Ukrainian-born American writer and theatre designer, an associate professor at the Department of Theatre at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her writing career began as a librettist for operas. Her first opera, Black Square, with music composed by Russian composer Ilya Demutsky had its world premiere at Moscow’s famed Tretyakov’s Gallery in 2018. Her second large composition, an oratorio entitled Last Day of an Eternal City, also with composer Ilya Demutsky, premiered in Moscow’s largest concert hall, Zaryad’e, to high critical acclaim in 2021. Based on ancient Roman documents and writings, letters, and everyday life artifacts, the oratorio evokes parallels between the First Rome and the Third Rome (Moscow), exploring the innovative use of language in creating the soundscape of life in a megapolis.  Olga’s latest work, Venetian Cycle, the art song cycle for baritone, soprano and a string quartet + harp, inspired by the dark mysteries of medieval Venice during the time of the plague, also with music by Ilya Demutsky, has opened at the Lyric Theatre @ Illinois in May 2023 as a part of Six World Premieres.  Olga is currently at work on her first collection of poems, second part of Venetian Cycle and on a musical, a dark satire exploring paradigm shifts in public consciousness during social upheavals.