Uploaded by xanthinusa5 on 30.12.2012

The day before yesterday at a pet market in Kostroma...
...I saw buntings.
I don't think I'd ever seen them before.
They are strange birds, plain.
But something from the past, from my childhood or my dreams...
...flashed and becokoned me...
...when the old man selling them said in a flat voice,
Buntings. 300 rubles for the pair.
I live in Neya.
It's one of those towns that no one remembers today.
It stands on the Neya river...
...lost somewhere between the woods of Vologda and Vyatka.
The Neya, Unzha, Poksha, Vokhtoma, the Viga, Mera, Vaya, Sogozha...
Beautiful names left behind by the Merja...
...a Finnish tribe that dissolved into the Slavs some 400 years ago.
The orphaned villages, a few rites, rivers with forgotten names.
That's all that's left from them,
although many people here still think of themselves as Merjans.
These northern outskirts always hold on to it longer.
Our people are a bit strange, their faces are inexpressive.
There are no passions boiling,
although sudden affections and divorces are not uncommon.
There is promiscuity,
but for a Merjan it's ancient - like an ethnic rite or a custom.
Ask me why?
No one remembers anymore.
I don't remember when or why it started,
but I wanted to know, to understand who we are.
Why are we like this and not like something else?
My father was a local poet.
He wrote under the pseudonym Vesa Sergeyev.
Maybe that's why I began collecting snatches of songs, names, words.
Some I needed to look for and some were always right next to me.
I just hadn't written before, so at first it was coming out badly.
But the biggest thing was that I didn't know what to write about...
...although my father would often tell me that if your soul hurts...
...write about the things you see around you.
My name is Aist. It's an uncommon name. Obviously Merjan.
I'm just over 40. I have no family.
I work at the Neya paper mill.
Thank you.
Excuse me for a second.
Miron is calling for you.
The director's calling.
It's working.
Uh-huh. Very well. Turn it off.
May I?
Hello, Aist Vsevolodovich.
Hello, Miron Alekseyevich.
It's from shadberry.
It's good.
My wife Tanya died. Last night.
I'm going to the rope factory in Gorbatov to sign a contract.
Call me back tomorrow evening.
Do you want another drink?
No, thank you.
I'm not taking her to the morgue.
I don't want to show her to anybody.
I'd prefer to do everything just with you.
I don't want to be alone.
Let's go right now.
Well, alright.
And then I remembered about my buntings.
I might not be home for three days. Who's going to feed them?
Anyway I had some vague feeling I should take them with us.
Miron Alekseyevich didn't mind.
We adorned her like a bride.
People here always dress the deceased women that way.
It's the same way the girlfriends decorate the happy bride.
In the morning, before the wedding, they wash her,
wipe her dry, and prepare multicolored threads.
The bride lies or sits down while her girlfriends crowd around her.
They tickle her, make jokes and lots of noise.
Then they tie the threads into her pubic hair.
That's how tomorrow's wife will go to her husband.
And at night he will take the threads from her hair,
tie them into a knot and hang them on an alder tree.
We were leaving our beloved Neya.
Long ago I read that a nation is alive as long as...
...it remembers its language and keeps its traditions.
This rite is the last thing that connects a Merjan with life.
What will be left if it will be forgotten?
We were leaving our beloved Neya. We didn't know then it was forever.
I married her when she was 19. I was already close to 40.
She lived in Vokhma.
She was very shy.
She was embarrassed that she didn't know how to use make-up...
...or how to wear interesting clothes.
But Tanya was so close to me.
She totally obeyed me.
I would tell her, "Take off your dress. Open up this way,
try it like this, stand right here, move your hips."
All three of Tanya's holes were working.
And it was me who unsealed them.
But everything always happened only by my initiative.
We call this kind of talk "smoke".
It's a custom to tell about the one you love...
...as long as the body is still on the earth.
You say things you'd never tell a stranger...
...while your beloved was still alive.
But over the dead you're allowed...
...because it makes your face brighter...
...and turns your grief into tenderness.
- Good day. Where are you from? - From Neya.
- Where are you going? - To Mescherskaya Porosl.
- And what are you carrying? - A veretenitsa.
- And what kind of birds are they? - Buntings.
We call our beloved women veretenitsa.
Of course the lieutenant knows that.
Besides, it's not hard to see what we're carrying.
Many people here still remember that they are Merjan.
So those are buntings you have? I've never seen them before.
But I always loved that word.
Buntinkina is Tanya's maiden name.
When we were young I always called her Buntinkina or Bunting.
Tanya loved birds very much,
but couldn't stand seeing them in cages.
I was thinking about getting her a heron so it could stroll freely.
Another 20. 90 big ax handles. 200 small birch ax handles.
20 beech ax handles. 160 shovel handles.
None of the beech. We'll take the rest.
Help us out, please.
Aist Vsevolodovich,
do you mind if I keep "smoking"?
Do you remember when we celebrated my 50th?
I drank some wine and I wanted Tanya so badly.
I looked at her and she understood me,
but her eyes told me that it was better not to right then.
I got so upset that my stomach started to hurt.
Miron continued to tell me how much he loved his Tanya,
but he really didn't have to. The whole town knew about his passion...
...how they hid in the local hotel, how he washed her with vodka.
There were rumors that Tanya didn't love him,
but Miron said nothing about it.
Dear Miron Alekseyevich! This song is for you.
It is "The Smell of Summer" with lyrics by Vesa Sergeyev.
I went to the pharmacy Bought some soapwort I'd found,
And some dried swamp viburnum, That I bought by the pound.
I found some cudweed, And also some thyme.
A heap of smooth corn silk, And knotgrass so fine.
Toadflax with cowberry, And young poplar leaf,
Some mint, some tansy, and sage I believe.
Dandelion root And juniper berries,
More than one hundred packs I bought in my hurry.
I brought it all home And boiled it well.
I wanted so badly That fine summer smell.
Tanya worked at the same paper mill.
We liked each other.
I photographed her once and something flashed between us.
Something sparked and hopelessly sped away.
- Show me the hedgehog. - The one with the band?
Yes. The blue one.
It blinks.
Here you go. Thirty rubles.
Press its belly.
Is it broken? Let me exchange it.
No. It's exactly what I need.
I won't have to break it myself.
We entered Meschyorskaya Porosl.
It's the Merjan name for the town of Gorbatov.
Its emblem has a blooming apple tree.
It's a nice town on the Oka River.
And why here?
The honeymoon.
We didn't want to go too far. Besides it was expensive.
Tanya fell in love with Oka when she was still in school.
We rented a house here after our wedding. Just for a week.
The honeymoon in Meschyorskaya Porosl...
We committed Tanya to the water.
People here always do that, it's a rule.
Our cemeteries are half-empty, mostly newcomers lay there.
But water is the dream of every Merjan.
Drowning means to suffocate from joy, tenderness and yearning.
If we find someone drowned we don't burn them.
We tie on a weight and give them back to the water.
The water replaces their body with a new flexible one.
Death from water is immortality for a Merjan.
Oh, Neya River. We know your fish by name.
Anya and Lyosha, Pasha and Kira.
Oh, Neya River. Oh, Neya River.
Sleeping under the ice is Tatyana the pearl oyster.
Seryozha the perch isn't sleeping...
My father dreamed of drowning and living next to the shore.
He was a queer fish, that self-taught Merjan poet.
People laughed at him. Sometimes they paid attention to his words.
Sometimes they beat him up.
His naive poems were printed in "The Neya Lights".
The paper sold well. It was cheap and useful for domestic chores.
But my father believed that people needed his poems.
Once we made a hole in the ice and sank his most treasured possession.
He was a queer fish, that self-taught Merjan poet.
A Mexican toy That my Cuban friend found
Looks like a boot And with water makes sound.
At the place of the heel Is a round open space,
At the toe of the boot Is a sad young girl's face.
My friend wrote a letter And gave me advice:
Add water, then rock her And stare at her eyes
I poured in some water And gave it a rock.
The girl started moaning My chair squeaked in shock.
And from out those huge eyes, From invisible holes...
My mother died during childbirth when I was in seventh grade.
After that my father changed a lot. He stopped behaving oddly.
He didn't "smoke" at the funeral.
Afterwards he would often call the river's name.
He would swim in cold weather with pain in his heart.
He would walk drunk on the ice that was still thin.
We committed my mom and my still-born sister Nina to the water.
My father dreamed of drowning, but the Merjan don't drown themselves.
It's impolite to rush to heaven, passing by the others.
The river chooses people herself. The water is the highest judge.
Look at the hair on my little feet. I will do the same with you.
The two of us are sandpipers Wearing slippers of blue.
We'll put packs on our backs Stuffed full of timothy hay
Aist, bring the can. Aist!
And perhaps now we'll die Dancing this Turkish Halay.
I wasn't there when my father died.
He had a bad death. He drank contaminated alcohol.
But I knew that he died from sorrow.
On the way back to Neya we got lost. We ended up in Molochai.
This town has a very sad and tender meaning for us.
It's like Paris for the Europeans.
It's a shame it doesn't exist anymore.
It dissolved into the outskirts of another big, modern...
...and living town.
- Hi! - Hi!
Do you want us?
We want you a lot.
It's so good that you exist.
The girls' names were Julia and Rima. They were okay.
They laughed when we introduced ourselves as Miron and Aist.
Your wife died?
Yes. Recently.
Rim, wait!
We were very thankful to Julia and Rima.
Because a live woman's body is also a river that carries grief away.
It's only a shame that you can't drown in it.
Turn it on.
- Here? - The little triangle.
I knew that Tanya liked you. She was sad.
She would sit quietly looking somewhere into the distance.
I wasn't angry at her. I loved her a lot.
We couldn't have children. It was very hard for her.
I don't remember what or how I answered him.
My thoughts and memories swept over me and carried me away.
Only later I asked if he believed he'd meet his Tatyana again...
Something ripped in him, something broke down.
His expression changed and he stopped the car.
I felt sorry for him, for my odd father, for my mum, for Tanya.
Our names will be forgotten too,
just like the Merjans have forgotten their sacred words.
A Merjan doesn't have gods, only love for one another.
All that Miron had left now was his love for Tanya.
And he had left to believe was that he'll reunite with her...
...when it's his time to become ash and be committed to the water.
The belief in this half-forgotten rite was perhaps as naive...
...as my desire to restore our lost culture.
If something is doomed to disappear, then so be it.
Then so be it.
Then so be it.
I should have let her go...
I should have let her go, Aist Vsevolodovich.
We were going back home.
It was empty and cold, although this November happened to be warm.
Miron was silent, it didn't make any sense to "smoke" any more.
We had to make a detour.
We found ourselves back around the same place we left Tanya.
We had returned as if an invisible force wouldn't let us leave here.
Miron looked like he didn't notice.
He cheered up strangely, and I too felt a load off my mind.
I felt sad and pure.
But the sadness didn't press on me. It enveloped me like a mother.
Your birds are probably very smart.
Let's ask them for something.
Yes, I suppose.
Do you hear us?
They hear.
When we drove up on the Kineshemsky Bridge,
Miron whispered, "My Tanyusha is gone."
The buntings grew quiet.
Actually too quiet.
We fell from the bridge into the Volga, the great Merjan river.
The buntings helped us, darting to kiss the driver's eyes.
Miron Alekseyevich immediately went looking for Tatyana.
As for me, I found my father's silted typewriter...
and typed this book on sides of dead fish.
And the water will carry Merja's secrets away.
Which ones and to where?
Everyone will find out for himself when the time comes.
Only love has no end.
Only love has no end.