Poems in English
The following poems have previously appeared in literary periodicals:
“Forbidden Fellini” in the London Review of Books;
“The Birth of Anarchy” in The Literary Imagination;
“A Shave,” “Dig,” “The Three of Us,” “Matchmaking,” “Landscape with Laundering Women” in News from the Republic of Letters;
“Komsomol Act,” “Christmas,” “They Called Them Blue” in Jacket;
“Gogol in Rome” in Ploughshares;
“A Paper Plane to Nowhere” in Harvard Review;
“Blacklisted Titles” in The American Scholar;
“In the Bathhouse” in the Antioch Review;
“Orpheus in the Subway” in The Massachusetts Review;
“Something to Oppose” in Leviathan Quarterly (UK);
“Anna-Maria and the Others” in Press;
“The Tale of Clear Pond” in Slate;
“Death,” “Things in the Morning,” “My Sense of Time” in The Antigonish Review;
“Haircut,” “A Prison for an Architect” in The Dark Horse (UK);
“Tanya,” “Beggar” in the Poems & Plays;
“Stanzas to the Stairwell,” “Golden Fleece,” “Gogol in Jerusalem,” “A Fly on the Faucet” in Salamander.
In the Bathhouse
And when at last I used to leave the house
after the lazy Sunday rest,
the sun was high. It saw a town in drowse;
a golden rush of leaves lay to the west.
All northern Russian towns are quite alike:
a river, a long street along the river,
a square with a statue of a leader
stretching his right arm forward like a guide.
The crowd headed where his finger pointed:
to a bathhouse on the river’s bank.
I walked along with the others, a poor student,
a ghost of those blind alleys, nil, a blank.
In the light and shade of my sixteenth October
I carried but a parcel in my hand.
The smell of soap, of public bathhouse timber
is what I call the smell of the motherland.
And I remember skinny women’s shoulders,
curved spines and—with a gasp of awe—
their loose and bulky bellies in the folds
of many motherhoods.
The old stone floor
was warm and smooth under their bare feet,
sunlight fell on it through the upper windows,
rays intermixed with steam and water lit
the hair of the bathing women.
Their faces up, eyes closed, they stood
under the showers, like in an ancient chapel,
and listened to the choirs of migrant birds.
With their necks craned and with their nipples
relaxed under the water, with their palms
caressing chests and falling to their hips,
with bluish veins crisscrossing their slim ankles,
they looked like water nymphs.
Time, hold them still, save them like flies in amber!
I look out of the window across the cobble-stone plaza.
I see the autumn river which like a saw
cuts through the log of the horizon.
The eye finds only what was there before:
the sky, the water, many rivers ago.
Gogol in Rome
Annoyed with the parochialism of the “fantastic city”
of St. Petersburg and close
to the unexpected end of his life,
Gogol escaped to Rome.
He settled in a colony of Russian artists,
sharing lodgings with his bosom friend,
the painter Alexander Ge.
On their long walks they discovered
“the inner meaning of everything.”
Gogol, a perpetual titular councilor,
was almost happy there: he could forget
the petty insults of the civil service
and a failed career at the University. He was secretly
working on Book Two of his magnum opus,
Dead Souls, stealing bits of furniture and parts
of the domestic atmosphere
from paintings of his late-Romantic friends
into the mansions and orchards
of his grotesque characters. His own
descent into madness occurred in strongly marked stages.
He saw that everything was alive in Mother Nature—
trees, stones, sand on the beach, seashells—
and everything called for his empathy.
He stopped eating, stopped drinking wine
(that blood of grapes), turned almost into a Jainist.
His friends were appalled; his mother freaked
whenever she received another of his
strange and ambiguous letters,
full of advice for the improvement of the Fatherland.
His doctors prescribed enemas, hazardous treatment
which seeps potassium out of the body,
causing a deterioration at the heart. He destroyed
his novel, throwing four hundred pages
into the fireplace, and would now spend his days
mostly in bed, covered with three woolen blankets.
“It’s cold in Italy, it’s dark!” he complained to his servant.
The doctors bled him with leeches until he was dead.
The Birth of Anarchy
for Glyn Maxwell
I wish we could drink that oily Arabic coffee
on the open veranda till the end of autumn.
I wish the police declared a curfew
and the waitresses sang their anarchist anthem.
I wish the wind broke into a newsstand
and dragged newspapers to the nearest abyss,
and the lights went out, and all bankrupt street vendors
left their goods at the feet of paupers.
And the wind tore into the booth, and the snow
of print settled slowly, gradually melting,
and the lights died down and glowed low—
and who could wish such a thing but an owl or a cretin?
And paupers got drunk, and policemen threw fits,
stuttering in forked tongues like apostles,
and the day was a night, and acacias’ tips
were coins on fake marble tbls.
A Dance without Music
Oleg from Building 4
strips off his clothes
during the morning walk
and dashes among us
with huge kangaroo leaps,
chased by two male nurses.
Say no more. Smoke.
His bluish boxers brave the nippy air.
And, finally, when almost caught,
he grabs my shoulders and holds me like a shield
between himself and them. Together we
stomp our feet on the bald hospital lawn,
while other patients and their relatives, etc.
stare in awe, yet with indifference.
A contradiction? Say no more.
It is a contradiction, if that matters,
unthinkable to Sunday morning visitors,
compatible with the inmates of Building 4.
A Fly on the Faucet
In the train of homes on this map’s slope
I am a passenger in green compartments,
a nut puzzled to the marrow, forever
rummaging the drawers for a missing document.
My foreign passport, my ticket, my hands shake.
Things evaporate, keys play hide and seek,
books rewrite themselves. My favorite characters
rebel against authorial judgment.
Prince Myshkin regains sanity, returns to St. Petersburg,
Levin sells his wheat fields and takes Kitty abroad,
dear Venichka wakes and sees through the window
the unattainable lights of Petushki.
Landscape moves behind curtains,
hills roll out into a plain. Last night I noticed
we were going slower: a bookshelf in a suitcase,
the windmill of a dusty fan, a fly on the faucet.
They Called Them “Blue”
They called them “blue” and mentioned them in whispers,
as if they represented a sinister cult.
This couple lived in a bohemian slum,
where most Moldovan gays rented cheap rooms.
I had never been there
until a schoolmate from that neighborhood
took me to check them out. Putting out our cigarettes,
we climbed the stairs to the top floor.
A gray haired man opened the door,
looking like a monk in a monumental bathrobe.
He made us Turkish coffee and scratched his tonsure:
“Where shall I put this?” I realized
that their place had no furniture except for a bookcase.
Sergey and was a book binder and restorer of rare books
at a local history archive. He had learned his trade in jail,
doing time for homosexuality. Books were all he had.
The room’s large square window offered
a majestic view of Kishinev slums. In the kitchen,
a tape recorder played non-stop, a guitar and a violin
vying with each other. Czech jazz, he explained,
anticipating my question.
Then his friend arrived, a young underground artist
with an enormous watermelon in his arms.
“I stood in a line for a damn hour,”
he cursed, “This thing had better be ripe,
or I’ll drop it out the window!”
The watermelon soon revealed his green interiors.
We ate it with spoons, listening to the music,
which I liked. I still remember the watery taste,
the many seeds that were left when the rest was gone.
A Komsomol Act
He was the Komsomol Leader of our class,
and I a troubled girl.
He once paid me a visit when I was home sick
and sat down on my narrow couch.
He said that I should read Lenin’s works
and brush up my physics and math.
I told him to shut up and kissed his mouth
and smelled his chewing gum breath.
His embrace tightened on my shoulder blades,
his Komsomol badge pricked my neck.
I remember the ceiling growing darker above us,
and darker, and darker, and dark.
To the sounds of winter, trolleybus tinkles,
feet trotting across snow,
Lenin smiled shrewdly and closed his eyes
between our slippers on the floor.
Self-Portrait in Pajamas
Who is this sleepy, gloomy scarecrow
in morning knots of her own red hair,
who sits at the kitchen tbl
Water shadows dance on the wall
among grape leaves.
Is she the same me
that forgot to shut the faucet off
before going to bed last night?
Water drips into the kitchen sink,
a vine breaks in the wallpaper vineyard,
soy soap melts on zinc.
I used to undertake those strange journeys
with an empty bag and a pocketful of cash,
leaving home early as the Kishinev chimneys
were coughing up their first smoke into the winter air.
The bus went from village to village across fields.
Peasant passengers slept with their heads on the their bags,
waking up from time to time for a gulp of water from a bottle
or to nurse a crying baby to sleep.
I, a smuggler with a Nabokov in my hands,
was going to buy sheepskins by the Bulgarian border
and carry them back to Kishinev, where a few friends
sewed ladies coats from them for the black market.
Two years after graduating from college,
where I had studied language and literature, I couldn’t
land any other job. This one was seasonal
and paid very little, but enough to permit me to live alone.
I liked my secret trips to the south of the land:
it was less settled, the hilly steppe more empty.
After six hours of bus time my feet felt heavy
as I walked toward a row of whitewashed huts.
I would find the right door and knock. They’d let me in,
treat me to wine and cheese and fill my bag
with tough-smelling golden sheepskins. We gossiped
about life in the capital, local life and life in general.
They knew my father was a dissident and in prison
and gave me a good discount out of respect.
They were well-to-do, but I appreciated
their compassion. They hated the Soviets too.
Once a policeman stopped me at a bus stop,
opened my bag and extracted the skins,
but the strangers around us began to shout
that I was one of them, from their village.
An old Moldovan man swore I was his niece
and those skins were not for sale. The policeman
didn’t believe him, but stepped out of my path,
letting me get away with my golden fleece.
A Paper Plane to Nowhere
There was one autumn vulnerable light
locked in the transparent and fragile objcts
of a mental hospital within my sight.
I took my medicine without progress,
which made me meditative but not bright.
Each day I woke at seven, ate bland food,
drank weak cold tea and walked under the escort
of a physician in an unfriendly mood
to a remote section. Here my imprisonment
became almost inanimate, absurd.
Among some loonies in the corridor
I’d wait in a silent line for the door
to open wide and let me in again.
The male nurse called with a phonetic flaw:
the stress fell either after or before,
but not in the golden mean of my strange name.
I was eighteen, morose, a little blind,
bereft of glasses after that fistfight
with a policeman. Thus I was arrested
and woke up on a rough asylum bed.
Evil regimes must kill, but understand
who has an Achilles’ heel, who an Achilles’ head.
Slow as a turtle after taking pills,
I walked to the “art therapy” ward, where patients
made paper boxes or “developed new skills,”
e.g. cleaning rusty irons, knitting mittens
and socks for patient nurses and impatient docs.
But I would always doze or, playing hooky,
read a forbidden book under the desk
with nurses in the background watching hockey.
Then one good day they brought a bunch of kids,
who limped, and drooled, and smiled with their wry mouths.
They looked at us from behind heavy eyelids
and couldn’t do a thing. After two hours
they were all taken back. Some fellows said:
“Those kids looked really, really sad.”
Another day they came again and stared
at us, the other patients. No one cared.
They were mumbling a dark stifled cry,
sometimes they touched the paper, gave a shy
and happy sound of comprehension. Weird!
They had no difference, but their clothes did.
There were skirts and pants. A female child
came close and bestowed on me a glance
of admiration in her greenish eyes.
I looked in them and saw an abyss of sadness,
the asylum of our mutual madness.
I looked into her eyes and saw my face
and yellow spots of Russian swamps in April,
a chain of golden lights, a lace of days,
while she stood still, a little ugly angel.
I made a box out of gray paper. That
was all that I could give instead
of wisdom to myself and to that orphan.
But she seemed happy with my paper coffin.
Her name was Carmen. Colorless and sloppy,
her flesh was older than her mind.
To stare at nothing seemed to be her hobby,
as well as mine.
That autumn, just to meet her expectations,
I learned to make all kinds of paper things:
planes, boxes, trains and even railway stations,
and white, white ships, and cranes with widespread wings...
They flew and swam across the dirty tbl,
across the lakes of glue, and seas of paint
toward the window with its yellow maple,
whose autumn brushes always were so wet.
That eighteenth autumn, all those ugly ducklings
taught me to laugh at the slapstick universe.
Forgiveness and forgetfulness, my darling,
oh my Carmen! My life is also scarce
and made of paper.
In the evening, nurses
would take them back to the orphanage and I
would walk across the park which mumbled verses
in the blind alleys for a lullaby.
Anna-Maria and the Others
It was a boring school party.
Two girls, twin sisters and very pretty,
Anna, Maria, danced. The others watched and yawned
and swapped teenager jokes. Some stood alone,
who couldn’t dance at all. But what a pity!
I was a part of that salt pillar party.
Then one by one we gathered in the school yard
and fled to smoke a bitter cigarette.
It was past sunset, and the grass was wet.
We sneaked into an open swimming pool.
Climbing over the fence was not too hard.
The water was as radiant as it was cool.
We sat on dewy benches, had a chat.
The night above us winked, lazily spat
a star or two into the pool; its dome
lay on the bottom like a magic stone,
and linden trees strewed white nightmares.
The moon like a moonwalker went upstairs.
The twins—we simply called them Anna-Maria—
went to the edge of the tiles and touched the water.
“It is all right!”—and they took off their sweaters,
skirts and socks. It was becoming clear
that they were serious about this scary matter.
Yes, they were serious about the matter.
Anna was slimmer and more blonde, and she
splashed us with laughter, water, and Maria
swam to the other side and sat under a tree.
Two years later she would also flee
abroad with a ballet club. From our hemisphere
we watched her step to the edge and disappear.
With one long breath we made up all our minds.
We kicked off our trousers, we threw down
our T-shirts, ribbons, fears. Naked gods
we skinny-dipped in the moonlit water, so at odds
with the dark airs of the provincial town:
may hoary Neptune bless its sparkling spawn!
As years go by, the smell of that chlorine
evaporates from the nostrils, stars get blurry,
the full white moon becomes more clandestine
on the dark bottom of the pool, as does glory
for all those water-shaking cherubim.
A deep long breath, and then I’ll dive again
and almost choke and faint, but then regain
myself and find the moon under my feet,
the twins in its white orbit swim with speed,
the boys keep racing in the upper layers,
and linden trees unfold their linden fairs.
The obese woman who used to wake up
our whole house by starting her Subaru at 6 a.m.
has committed suicide. Snow
hangs like a set of unlaundered sheets
in the windows. When I walked into
her seventh floor studio, the standard lamp
was still on, but could only light itself,
refusing to interfere with the dull dusk
of the interior the police had already searched.
For the first time, I felt an urge to look at her face
and perhaps to see something more distinctly
than the triviality of neighborhood permits
and the mystery of suicide allows,
but her features were shut down without offense.
I only remember a chair missing its rear legs,
shoved up against the wall for balance.
Something to Oppose
As the third generation of dandelions is turning gray,
I’ll visit Moscow, where my father and his friends
still prod kitchen walls with their shoulders,
drink cheap wine, chat politics, grow older
than their own fathers. The great wars are over;
death does not draft us into the defense of death.
A domestic paradise of ancient photos,
on several of which
I’m one of those sunny spots without features
in Eastern Europe’s twilight.
The ceilings are so low they make you stoop
in this early-’60s-built “Khrushchev home” type of
block of flats. On the kitchen tbl
I find my father’s “victim of repressions”
special privileges card. Fully exonerated.
“So what privileges does it grant you?
Can you get a visa and visit me in the States?”—
“No, but I can ride the subway all day for free,
if I ever get that bored.” Of Putin he says,
“Shitty government but its very shittiness
contributes to the development of political culture,
because at least there is something to oppose.”
A classic ’60s dissident, my father couldn’t
live in the West. There’s nothing to oppose there.
He says the atmosphere of freedom makes him shrink.
A three-storied house of limestone and oak wood
hid on the margins of a southern city.
Here they lived. Here her mother stood,
watching her kick a pebble with her foot.
The pebble was an alien on this dusty
road to her school, and it took another route.
Here she stumbled, winced and dropped her bag,
rubbed a hurt toe in a worn summer sandal.
A boy whistled... to her? No, to his dog.
The English spaniel flew past the girl
on flapping ears like a spotty angel.
Blue shades patched up the bald spots among grass.
A pretzel’s “8” broke in her hand into two zeroes.
Here she caught up with a school friend. Here again
they separated on the narrow path, but soon
she caught up with herself in the barber’s mirrors.
Years later she’d recall that shabby shop.
Its open door revealed a tongue of gauze,
the scissors’ silver swallow touched her top
and bare neck with cold hope
that while she sat here, the clock, too, would doze
like the big fly on the big barber’s nose.
Drowned in a big leather armchair, here she sat.
A white starched cloth slipped from a pointed shoulder.
“Cheap haircuts for boys,” promised the ad
to the white walls. And thus no Samson’s dread
tortured her mind or made her older.
Trimmed hair prickling her back, she stepped outdoors.
Good bye, small world behind the looking-glasses!
Good bye, old crippled clock, grey marble floors,
crumpled cocoons of towels with hairy laces!
From flower to flower, from tree to tree
she dashed to school through the dry boiling air.
Just once she stopped, looked back and waved to me,
to nobody, a guest from nowhere.
My first love died in the Afghan war,
but not from bullets, not by the hand of Mars.
He drowned while swimming in Ferry Lake.
That’s why they didn’t bring him back to us,
but buried him there, in the sands of the desert.
The soldiers did not shoot into the air
eighteen times, which was his quicksand age.
No drums broke the sirocco silence.
My first love died because he couldn’t swim.
They had marched across the desert for two weeks,
he saw a lake, a blister on the lips
of the earth. He sneaked out to the bank
and jumped into the water. Then his heart stopped.
A water-nymph looking a bit like me
pulled him by hand ashore. There he lay
on dry mignonette and watched the clouds
marching across the desert sky.
Orpheus in the Subway
A skeptic, perfect pitch, but the worst student
in our class, he emigrated from Russia to the US
in 79 and studied the violin at the Boston Conservatory.
I’d never seen him since school,
but only heard from others that he’d dropped out
because of a serious psychiatric problem
and turned into a drug addict to boot.
In 92, trying to find out how many angels
would fit on the point of the needle, as they say,
Alex committed suicide.
Not long ago, during a visit to New York,
I saw him in the subway, alive, playing his violin
in a passage connecting two stations.
I recognized his face and yellow skin
(his father was Korean, his mother Jewish);
he was still lanky and stooped as usual.
I waited for him to finish his medley
of Russian pop songs before approaching him.
“What are you doing here?!”—“Just playing, why?”—
“What do you mean ‘just playing’? I was told
you were...” I realized that it would be wrong
to say “dead,” and paused, staring at the familiar mole
over his right eyebrow. “Each blessed day
I die a hundred times,” he quoted Mandelshtam.
A train went by, a crowd came between us,
separating us for a minute, but when it drained,
he was no longer there.
The tunnel’s gray tiled walls and gum-flecked cement
soon filled with a fresh crowd,
and I fled with them, thinking perhaps
he didn’t want to see me. This was, after all,
his labyrinth, and my life
was already complicated enough without this.
Then on the train it suddenly dawned on me.
He wasn’t wearing his glasses!
Near-sighted from an early age,
he must have mistaken me for someone else.
How refreshing are these morning bursts of high fever
when my hands holding a glass of hot milk
feel no difference in temperature,
and objcts in my room convert
to a higher degree of brightness
like sunlit sea vegetation.
Wrapped in a blanket over my pajamas,
I go out to the balcony to finish my milk
facing a Mendeleev’s Periodic tbl
Last night the rain
washed out the glasses that we’d left out.
A baby rainbow falls on the recycling box.
Its spectral completeness holds for half a minute,
but then begins to disintegrate,
shedding the red, yellow and green
ingredients, and leaving a streak of icy blue
to pulsate before my swollen eyes.
When I sleepily close them,
it keeps flashing under the eyelids,
where salt and water flow,
a natural refracting medium.
The last time I ran hurdles I showed up
early for the competition. There was still
snow on the Kishinev stadium. Three or four workers
were sweeping it from the tracks.
I took off my coat and dress in a dim locker room
and put on my blue shorts and a white
race jersey with a well-worn number three
printed in red over my chest. Then the other girls
began to arrive, smelling of snow.
Natasha had a strong body and long legs.
When she removed her hair clasp, her blond hair
fell like a mane over her bare shoulder-blades.
Ira, a Tatar girl, was dark and had jet-black eyes.
I knew she was the best in spite of her short stature.
Even Olga, an absent-minded freckled dawdler,
had better chances than I at sixteen.
I left my eyeglasses in the locker and came out
to stretch and warm up before the final race.
Our skin crawling in the cold, white vapor at our nostrils,
ponytails... We looked at each other one last time
at the start, before turning into four racehorses.
The pistol awakened us, startling every nerve.
Each step was taut but light-footed. Our elastic ligaments
and warm muscles hurled us through cold winter air.
Clearing hurdle after hurdle, we knew no gravity.
When it was over I looked around and saw the others.
They were behind me. Strangely enough,
it didn’t matter to me any longer.
We were tired, and our shoulder-bags felt heavy
as we walked to the bus stop, trotting on ice,
making small talk under our umbrellas.
That Moldovan February was drizzly,
but it was getting warmer toward noon.
The next summer I moved to another city
to study literature.
Are they still running through snow behind me?
At the Young Pioneer Camp
That summer day was dim, the yellow dorms
of our Young Pioneer camp winked through the fence
of rain, when the bus stopped by the doors
of the main office building, exhaling us.
Uniform white shirts, blue shorts, scarlet neckerchiefs,
we headed upstairs for our physicals,
were checked for diarrhea, headaches, chickenpox,
bad teeth and humiliating lice.
“Are you a boy or a girl?”—a nurse asked me.
I blushed and whispered that I was a girl.
At thirteen I was as flat as veneer,
wore short haircuts and bit my nails.
I’d been eating unwashed fruits for a week
hoping my tests would reveal parasites
and they’d send me home. I walked heavy-footed
out of the lab and into the night.
The rain had stopped, crickets were trilling,
my roommates were asleep, a lonely lightbulb
under the ceiling lit their faces against
gray flat pillows on ancient standard bunks.
An iron frame, a mattress with bad springs,
a clock above my head without one hand...
I opened my journal and wrote “childhood stinks”
and closed my eyes. They were full of sand.
Veronica’s Secret Life
My beautiful cousin Veronica is
a nightclub singer,
a full time imitation of Edith Piaf.
She loves a man desperately for a half a year,
then hates him passionately for a month
and walks out on him without a note
in the middle of a night
to confirm the reality of the surreal.
Hopelessly young, careless, sensual,
yet a loner.
Her understanding parents keep inviting her back
to their Brooklyn house,
always packed with relatives in transit from Riga;
she isn’t fond of her kin and rejects the invitation.
Unbeknownst to them, she rents
a $1,500 studio in Manhattan,
where she will inexorably retreat
“to clean her feathers.” I sympathize with her escapism. Besides,
I’m in love with her fancy, messy place
where her cosmetics sleep on the sofa
next to a felt hat, silk socks, an emerald tie
and two unmatched concert shoes with broken heels.
Her current lover drives her to Boston
and they stay with me over Thanksgiving.
While shuffling maps of Massachusetts roads
in my dark Cambridge room,
he informs me that they are planning to get married
and to throw a big wedding party.
“Will you propose to her?”—“Inevitably!” he solemnly nods.
Robert wears old-fashioned sideburns and a wedge beard.
He is slim and awfully sweet, but has colorless eyes.
“What do you do for a living?”—“I am a photographer.
That’s how we met, you know.
She came to have her picture taken
for her citizenship papers, you know.”
There is something annoying about this “you know.”
Veronica calls me from New York every time
they quarrel. “Things happen.
We stop loving ourselves
if we start spending too much time together.”
He objcts to her habit of bringing home friends
after her concerts. For the first time
in her American emancipated life
Five months later he calls me crying:
“She ditched without explanation. Why?”—
“I have no idea.” That night she told me,
“No, nothing is wrong. I’ll live by myself.
I like my own life, waking late,
not emptying my ashtray every half an hour.
Today I went into the bathroom
and saw something he would have killed me for:
my panties and bra on an open book
of modern French poetry, and I rejoiced.”
A gray winter sun moves across his workshop
with an inspection of the tools;
it glints on a tin bucket, shuns the broom,
but lingers on the rusty metal
of the mop with its mermaid tail.
A tbl measuring two square meters
holds a freshly crafted chair.
The old carpenter smokes
while fretsawing out of white veneer
the silhouette of his guest, a girl of four.
Then, polishing the figure
to smooth it out for her palm,
he whistles a Moldavian peasant tune:
ti-tu-ta-ta-ta, ti-tu-ta-ta tam...
Sawdust dances in the room.
She sits down on the floor and draws
in the dust with her finger,
then takes his gift and kisses his bearded
cheek smelling of tobacco and rosin.
It’s late and time for her dinner.
In an hour they will find him dead
in the same chair, his eyes open,
the sand-paper fallen from his hand,
his head on the tbl, the fresh black void
in the veneer being the last thing he touched.