You Will Hear Thunder

We present this work in honor of the 55th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Anna Akhmatova
Russian
1889 – 1966

 

You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
when, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.

Encounter

Elizaveta Polonskaya
Russian
1890 – 1969

 

Morning flew by in the usual way,
Up and down streets, it raced,
Unwinding the spring of an ongoing watch
That the night would wind up again.

A coat was fastened over the chest
With a clasp and a little chain,
Then a voice from the gut: “tayer yiddish kind,
Give to a beggar, Jewish daughter.”

From under her rags she studies me
With a tender, cunning old face,
A sentinel’s eye and a hookish nose,
And a black wig, parted smooth.

An ancient, yellowish hand
Grabs my sleeve, and the words
Of a language I don’t comprehend
Sound out, seizing my heart.

And there I stop, I cannot go on,
Though I know—I shouldn’t, I shouldn’t,
And drop a small coin in her open palm
And lift a thirsty heart to her face.

“Old woman, how did you, half-blind,
Pick me out among these strangers?
After all, I’m like them, the same as those—
Dull, alien, strange.”

“Daughter, dear, there are things about us
That no one can mistake.
Our girls have the saddest eyes,
And a slow languorous walk.

And they don’t laugh like the others—
Openly in their simplicity—
But beam behind clouds as the moon does,
Their sadness alive in their smiles.

Even if you lose your faith and kin,
A yid iz immer a yid!
And thus my blood sings in your veins,”
She says in her alien tongue.

That morning flew by in the usual way,
Up and down streets, it raced,
Unwinding the spring of an ongoing watch
That the night would wind up again.

Awake, My People!

Judah Leib Gordon
Russian
1830 – 1892

 

Awake, my people! How long will you sleep?
The night has passed, the sun shines through.
Awake, cast your eyes hither and yon
Recognize your time and place.

Has the march of time stood still
From the day you left for all parts of the globe?
Thousands of years have come and gone
Since your freedom was lost and you wandered away.

Many generations have been born and died
Oceans and continents have intervened
Remarkable changes have taken place
A different world engulfs us today.

Awake, my people! How long will you sleep?
The night has passed, the sun shines through.
Awake, cast your eyes hither and yon
Recognize your time and place.

The land where we live and are born
Is not thought to be part of Europe?
Europe, the smallest of continents
But the mightiest of all in wisdom and knowledge.

This land of Eden is now open to you
Its sons now call you “brothers.”
How long will you dwell among them as a guest
Why do you reject their hand?

They have already removed the burden from your back
And lifted the yoke from around your neck
They have erased from their hearts hatred and folly
The stretch out their hands to you in peace.

So raise your head high, stand up straight
Look at them with loving eyes,
Open your hearts to wisdom and reason
Become an enlightened nation, speaking their tongue.

Everyone capable of learning should study
Laborers and artisans should take to a craft
The strong and the brave should be soldiers
Farmers should buy fields and ploughs.

To the treasury of the state bring your wealth
Bear your share of its riches and bounty
Be a man in the streets and a Jew at home
A brother to your countryman and a servant to your king.

Awake, my people! How long will you sleep?
The night has passed, the sun shines through.
Awake, cast your eyes hither and yon
Recognize your time and place.

The Night

In honor of the Russian holiday, National Unity Day, we present this work by one of modern Russia’s finest poets.

Anatoly Marienhof
Russian
1897 – 1962

 

The night, like a tear, flowed out of an immense eye
and rolled down along the roofs upon the lashes.
Sorrow rose up like Lazarus
and raced in the streets to cry and blame everyone,
throwing herself around necks – and everyone flipped
and screamed: you’re insane!
and with whoops of fear beat the eardrums
ringing like diamond cards.

How Agleam, How Garnished the Spring

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Ivan Bunin
Russian
1870 – 1953

 

How agleam, how garnished the spring!
Turn your eyes in the old way upon me:
Say, wherefore this sorrowing?
Why lavish this tenderness on me?

You are mute, as a blossom so frail,
Say naught! — No confession is needed:
The flight of your love I have heeded, —
Lone again is my trail!

Helplessness

We present this work in honor of the 75th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Zinaïda Gippius
Russian
1869 – 1945

 

I look at a sea – the greedy one and fervent,
Chained to the earth, on the depleted shore…
Stand by a gulf – over the endless heavens,
And could not fly to azure, as before.

I didn’t decide to join or slaves, or rebels,
Have no a courage nor to live, nor – die…
I feel my God – but cannot say my prayers,
I want my love – but can’t find love of mine.

I send to sun my worship and my groan,
I see a sheet of clouds, pale and cold…
What is a truth? It seems to me, I know, –
But for the truth I have not the right world.

From the Seashore

In honor of the Russian holiday, National Day, we present this work by the nation’s first female professional poet.

Anna Bunina
Russian
1774 – 1829

 

The shining sea
Seamless from the sky,
The quiet waves
Splashed upon the shore,
The gentle swells
Shivered just a little.

The sun is extinguished,
There is no moon,
Scarlet blaze
Glints in the west,
Birds in their nests,
Flocks in their roosts.

Everything suddenly shushed,
Everything in its place.

The room is still,
There is no rustling.
The children are cuddled
Modestly in the corners.

Lina touched
The harp strings:
The golden harp
Raised its voice;
Sounds in harmony
Sing with Lina.

Rosy flames
Shine from the fireplace;
The clear bright fire
Skips upon the coals;
The dark-gray smoke
Twists in a column.

The fierce flame
Scorches the soul;
The heart languishes,
Everything is desiccated.
Poison flows
In my veins.

Tears ran dry
In cloudy eyes,
Sighs stopped
The breast from heaving,
Speech freezes
On chilled lips!

Sea rise up!
Be a coffin for me!
Golden harp,
Strike like thunder!
Flame overflow,
Incinerate this poor woman!

I Love

In honor of Victory Day, we present this work by one of modern Russia’s most widely-loved poets.

Andrey Dementyev
Russian
1928 – 2018

 

To river came a woman fair.
A beauty with her auburn tresses.
My flame for her one word expresses –
I wrote it on the parched sand there.

She read it out aloud to me.
“I love you too…” she answered dearly.
Her words came clearly:
“Darling, darling…”
my mind lost then its liberty.

I sat with her upon the sand.
The sun upon our backs was blazing.
Beneath, the rustling pines were gazing.
The rooks’ cry came from distant land.

And for her I some lines composed.
Across our Rapids I was swimming
to fetch a bunch of daisies, brimming,
which I then at her feet disposed.

She laughed and then she read my palm.
She tore the petals from the flowers.
So were my vows possessed of powers,
Or was this superstition’s balm?

And many years have passed since then.
Again, I see – though
eyes are shuttered –
that written word, not even muttered,
is made indelible by pen.

The Gates of Paradise

In honor of Defense of the Fatherland Day, we present this work by one of Russia’s great martyred poets.

Nikolay Gumilyov
Russian
1886 – 1921

 

The eternal entrance into Eden
Is not locked with seven precious seals;
It has no charms nor light of heaven,
And the people don’t know that it is.

It’s a doorway in a wall forgotten —
Stones, moss and nothing more else,
Near stands a beggar; and the rotten,
Keys are hanging at his gaudy waist.

Paladins ride by in agitation,
Trumpets wail, and minted silver chant;
Nobody spares his attention
To the Peter — the Apostle, the saint.

They dream: There, by Sepulchre of Savor,
Paradise will open doors for us;
At the footing of the Mount Thabor
The committed hour will thrust.

So by the armored monster goes;
In the air the trumpets ring and wail;
The Apostle in the tattered cloth,
Like a beggar, looks and poor and pale.