Forever You, the Unwashed Russia!

We present this work in honor of Russian National Day.

06-12 Lermontov
Mikhail Lermontov
Russian
1814 – 1841

Forever you, the unwashed Russia!
The land of slaves the land of lords:
And you, the blue-uniformed ushers,
And people who worship them as gods.

I hope, from your tyrannic hounds
To save me with Caucasian wall:
From their eye, that sees through ground,
From their ears, that hear all.

Heavy Are My Verses

We present this work in honor of the 20th anniversary of the poet’s death.

05-11 Turbina
Nika Turbina
Russian
1974 – 2002

Heavy are my verses—
Stones uphill.
I will carry them up to the crag,
The resting place.
I will fall face down in the weeds,
Tears will not do.
I will rend my strophe—
The verse will burst out crying.
Pain cuts into my palm—
Nettles!
The day’s bitter taste turns
All to words.

Ground Glass

We present this work in honor of the Russian holiday, Victory Day.

05-09 Odoyevtseva
Irina Odoyevtseva
Russian
1895 – 1990

 

A soldier came back home one day
acounting all he’d won:
“We’re sure to eat our fill tonight —
us and the little ones!

“There’s seven grand! A real day’s haul!
I’ve had some luck I’d say!
Into the daily salt I mixed
some fine ground glass today.”

“Dear God! Dear God!” his wife cried out
“You killer! Akh! You beast!
That’s worse than robbery, you know,
they’ll die by morn at least!”

“We’re born to die!” the soldier said,
“I do not wish them ill!
Go light a candle at the church
this evening, if you will.”

He ate, then went to “Paradise” —
his pub’s name formerly.
He talked of communism awhile
and drank Soviet tea.

Back at home he soon slept fast,
around him all was still.
Till midnight when a raven cried
beneath the windowsill.

“Oh, woe to us!” his wife sighed deep:
“There’s trouble on the way!
A raven never caws at night
for nothing, so they say!”

But soon the second rooster crowed,
the soldier, foul of mood,
refused to go to “Paradise”:
to clients he was rude.

‘Twas midnight at the soldier’s home,
and all was dark once more,
the knock of wings from carrion crows
was heard outside his door.

They jumped and squawked upon the roof,
his kiddies soon awoke,
his wife sighed heavily all night
while he slept like an oak.

At dawn he rose, before them all,
his mood was foul once more.
His wife forgiveness for him begged,
her brow against the floor.

“Why don’t you visit your hometown
a day or two!” said he.
“I’m sick to hell of that damned glass —
’twill be the death of me!”

He soon wound up his gramophone
and sat down very near.
Alas! He heard a funeral knell
that made him shake with fear.

A ragged team of seven mares
draw seven coffins past.
A teary choir of women sing:
“Repose with God at last!”

“Who are you mourning, Konstantin?”
“My Masha dear!” he cried.
“I went to a party Thursday night,
by Friday morn she’d died!”

“Our Foma died, and so did Klim,
and Kolya’s son-in-law.
A stranger illness in my life
I swear I never saw!”

A waning moon was on the rise,
the soldier went to bed.
A double bed, all cold and firm,
a coffin for the dead!

At once appeared a corvine priest
(or did he dream it all?).
Behind him seven ravens held
aloft a lone, glass pall.

They entered, stood along the wall,
the darkness weighed a ton.
“Begone, you demons! 1 won’t sell
ground glass to anyone!”

Too late! The moan died on his lips,
till seven croaked the priest.
Into the bier on raven wings
was rendered the deceased.

Away they took him to the place
where seven asp trees grow,
fed by the long-dead waters from
a quagmire far below.

 

Translation by Bradley Jordan

The Sculptor

04-28 Baratynsky
Yevgeny Baratynsky
Russian
1800 – 1844

 

When fixed his gaze upon the stone,
The artist saw a nymph inside,
And fire ran through vein his own –
He flew to her in all his heart.

But though full of strong desire,
He’s now overcome the spell:
The chisel, piecemeal and unhurried,
From his high goddess, sanctified,
Removes a shell after a shell.

In the sweet and vague preoccupation
More than a day or a year will pass;
But from the goddess of his passion,
The fallen veil will not be last,

Until, perceiving his desire,
Under the chisel’s gentle caress,
And answering by a gaze of fire,
Sweat Galatea brings entire
The sage into a first embrace.

 

Translation by Yevgeny Bonver

Don’t Open Your Arms

We present this work in honor of the 90th anniversary of the poet’s death.

04-19 Gedroits
Vera Gedroits
Russian
1870 – 1932

Don’t – no – don’t open your arms
Don’t let me out – no words needed.
Your kiss is so burning fragrant
And, like a tent, our alcove is starless.
Another – again – centuries to live out in an instant,
Let me die – die with me.
The silent night pours the spell of frenzy,
Dew ringing on the ground brings heat.
Here the star chambers opened wide,
In a kiss, merging with one life,
Don’t – no – don’t open your arms,
Let me die! Die with me!

The Telephone

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 140th birthday.

03-31 Chukovsky
Korney Chukovsky
Russian
1882 – 1969

 

The telephone rang.
“Hello! Who’s there?”
“The Polar Bear.”
“What do you want?”
“I’m calling for the Elephant.”
“What does he want?”
“He wants a little Peanut brittle.”
“Peanut brittle!..
And for whom?”

“It’s for his little Elephant sons.”
“How much does he want?”
“Oh, five or six tons.
Right now that’s all
That they can manage — they’re quite small.”

The telephone rang. The Crocodile
Said, with a tear,
“My dearest dear,
We don’t need umbrellas or mackintoshes;
My wife and baby need new galoshes;
Send us some, please!”
“Wait — wasn’t it you
Who just last week ordered two
Pairs of beautiful brand-new galoshes?”

“Oh, those that came last week — they
Got gobbled up right away;
And we just can’t wait —
For supper tonight
We’d like to sprinkle on our goulashes
One or two dozen delicious galoshes!”
The telephone rang. The Turtle Doves
Said: “Send us, please, some long white gloves!”

It rang again; the Chimpanzees
Giggled: “Phone books, please!”

The telephone rang. The Grizzly Bear
Said: “Grr — Grr!”
“Stop, Bear, don’t growl, don’t bawl!
Just tell me what you want!”
But on he went — “Grr! Grrrrrrr…”
Why; what for?
I couldn’t make out;
I just banged down the receiver.

The telephone rang. The Flamingos
Said: “Rush us over a bottle of those
Little pink pills!..
We’ve swallowed every frog in the lake,
And are croaking with a stomachache!”

The Pig telephoned. Ivan Pigtail
Said: “Send over Nina Nightingale!
Together, I bet,
We’ll sing a duet
That opera lovers will never forget!
I’ll begin — ”
“No, you won’t. The Divine Nightingale
Accompany a Pig! Ivan Petrovich,
No!
You’d better call on Katya Crow!”

The telephone rang. The Polar Bear
Said: “Come to the aid of the Walrus, Sir!
He’s about
to choke
on a fat
oyster!”

And so it goes. The whole day long
The same silly song:
Ting-a-ling!
Ting-a-ling!
Ting-a-ling!
A Seal telephones, and then a Gazelle,
And just now two very queer
Reindeer,
Who said: “Oh, dear, oh, dear,
Did you hear? Is it true
That the Bump-Bump Cars at the Carnival
Have all burned up?”

“Are you out of your minds, you silly Deer?
The Merry-Go-Round
At the Carnival still goes round,
And the Bump-Bump Cars are running, too;
You ought to go right
Out to the Carnival this very night
And buzz around in the Bump-Bump Cars
And ride the Ferris Wheel up to the stars!”

But they wouldn’t listen, the silly Deer;
They just went on: “Oh, dear, oh, dear,
Did you hear? Is it true
That the Bump-Bump Cars
At the Carnival
Have all burned up?”

How wrong-headed Reindeer really are!

At five in the morning the telephone rang:
The Kangaroo
Said: “Hello, Rub-a-dub-dub,
How are you?”
Which really made me raving mad.
“I don’t know any Rub-a-dub-dub,
Soapflakes! Pancakes! Bubbledy-bub
Why don’t you
Try calling Pinhead Zero Two!..”
I haven’t slept for three whole nights.
I’d really like to go to bed
And get some sleep.
But every time I lay down my head
The telephone rings.

Who’s there — Hello!
It’s the Rhino.”
“What’s wrong. Rhino?”
“Terrible trouble.
Come on the double!”
“What’s the matter? Why the fuss?”
“Quick. Save him ..
“Who?”
“The hippopotamus.
He’s sinking out there in that awful swamp…”
“In the swamp?”
“Yes, he’s stuck.”
“And if you don’t come right away,
He’ll drown in that terrible damp
And dismal swamp.
He’ll die, he’ll croak — oh, oh, oh.
Poor Hippo-
po-
po………..“

“Okay …
I’m coming
Right away!”
Whew: What a job! You need a truck
To help a Hippo when he’s stuck!

 

Translation by William Jay Smith

How Bare the Countryside!

We present this work in honor of the Russian holiday, Defense of the Fatherland Day.

02-23 Tyutchev
Fyodor Tyutchev
Russian
1803 – 1873

 

How bare the countryside! What dearth
How stark the hamlets’ desolation…
Long-suffering country of my birth,
poor homeland of the Russian nation.

Never will the stranger’s gaze
look deeper to perceive or guess
what hidden light there is that plays
and shimmers through your nakedness.

In servant’s guise the King of Heaven,
beneath the cross in anguish bent,
has walked the length and breadth of Russia,
blessing her people as he went.

 

Translation by Avril Pyman

Echo

We present this work in honor of the 185th anniversary of the poet’s death.

02-10 Pushkin
Alexander Pushkin
Russian
1799 – 1837

 

If beasts within a silent forest moan,
If trumpets sound, if thunder rolls and cracks,
Or young girls sing almost inaudibly—
For each initial tone
The atmosphere resounds quite suddenly
With a response, your own.

You listen to the peal of distant thunder,
The rumbling voice of violent waves and storm,
And hear the village shepherd’s lonely cry—
And then you send your answer,
But hear no echo, there is no reply…
This also, poet, is your nature.

 

Translation by Michael Mesic

Madagascar

In honor of Tu B’Shavat, we present this whimsical Jewish pastoral.

01-17 Broderzon
Moishe Broderzon
Russian
1890 – 1956

 

1
I take my feet under my arm,
I go, I walk, stride on,
to east and west and north and south,
I look for Birobidjan.
people give this advice – it’s a habit,
take a pack on your back,
and go forth like a rabbit!

To Madagascar, the land of grass and rabbits
and when the wind will blow,
to Madagascar. No meat there,
I know that from Genesis.
that’s where Adam the first man
started to mix in,
where Mother Eve can,
be curious too,
Ay Madagascar, may as well be there
that’s the thing to do.

2
The sun there bakes on pagodas
Winter hot snow falls
come in to all’s ready
don’t need to make a living
for people eat each other
So poof and you’re not there.

To Madagascar, the land of grass and rabbits
and when the wind will blow,
to Madagascar. No meat there,
I know that from Genesis.
that’s where Adam the first man
started to mix in,
where Mother Eve can,
be curious too,
Ay Madagascar, may as well be there
that’s the thing to do.

 

Translation by Sarah Traister Moskovitz