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selection of poems translated in English by Sasha Dugdale
Modern Poetry in Translation 2004
Morning, and my town...

Morning, and my town is asleep.
Full of happiness, pride,
a tramp stands on a rubbish heap -
can’t tear his eyes away, gazing
at some little object he’s found.
Looks at it this way and that -
so pitiful, old that it hurts.
What a nice little thing.
What an odd little thing.
A phial, or maybe a jar.
A pity to let the jar lie.
Why should it lie on the heap?
After all it’s a fragment of life -
Oh, a pity to let the phial lie,
perhaps it might be of some use.
What if in a second from now
our graves were to disappear,
the face of the Lord made smooth?
So you found it a home, did you then?
Oh, I found it a place, my boy...

The Musician and the Angel

In the little old square a musician plays-
his face is pale, he wears a black necktie.

Sitting on a bench I listen to him.
There is nobody else in the old square,

only pigeons, clustering about my legs,
and a blue-eyed angel soars above.

...And, oh, the more the music haunts and terrifies,the more the winged one softly smiles...

Best take the tram...

Best take the tram if you’re going back to the past
with its bell, the drunk bloke next to you,
the grimy school kid, the mad old girl,
and, of course, the poplar leaves drawn in its trail.

Five or six tramstops later
we ride into the nineteen-eighties –
factories to the left, works to the right,
no one cares, get out your fags, what’s wrong with you.

What’s that you’re mumbling, sceptical, something
like this is all lifted from Nabokov.
He was the barin’s son, you and I are the leftovers,
come on, smile, there are tears on your face.

This is our stop –
posters, banners, here and there,
blue sky, red neckties,
somebody’s funeral, musicians playing.

You play along to them on your whistle
and then float off to the beautiful sound,
leather jacket, hands in your pockets,
along that path of unending separation,

along that road of unending sadness
to the house where you were born, melting into sunset
solitude, sleep, the moulting of leaves,
come back as a dead soldier.


In the Urals in the town of Kurgan
on Miners’ Day, or Airforce Day
Comrade Kaganovich pointed
at my Grandad with his gun.
My Grandad went out of his room
into a corridor of blue like the sky.
A car, black, a foreign one,
drove past the banners, leaders’ profiles.
Past all the living, the living and dead,
through the woods, the rivers, and ages.
And on the wings, convex, black,
the dark blue clouds were reflected.
Where and beneath what clouds,
a faint image, but it must come to pass,
will I one day embrace him
in my thin childish arms?


I suddenly remembered the eighties
standing with a crowd by the cinema
Dawn, a load of hairy boys
and an early March thaw.

Iron smelted across the land
and tank building is planned.
Life’s shitty, but floats past nicely,
girls come along to the dance.

Jeans are imported from America
and sold for half a month’s wage
by intelligent lads who have found
their calling out on the square.

A pretty Komsomolka girl
slightly creased, on a balcony,
she’s been flying all night like Thumbelina
in the arms of a deputy.

But still, the film comes to an end
and everything else does too:
The crowds are leaving and the son
of man is rolling on the cafeteria floor.

Wind my life a little way back...

Wind my life a little way back
and a little more:
there I am drunk, crossing the park,
an autumnal leaf-fall.
And I’m walking, a girl to the left
holds an oar, to the right
another holds a ball. Time rises, stands
and the leaves fly.
All the park attractions closed,
no one nearby
but in the far distance
my companion, the microphone.
What it’s singing, the devil only knows –
what it always sung,
that love has passed and life will pass
and the years soon gone.
I won’t ever come back here
in my final years
or glance at the sky and then
stroll through the leaves,
mumbling along that love
has passed and life will pass,
remembering no one, ancient devil,
on the edge of the abyss.

To AP Sidorov, drugs rehabilitation specialist

Dark blue light in the hospital corridor,
moonlight beyond the hospital glass.
Think hard about the ordinary things,
think hard about the easiest stuff.
Three days now the gypsy’s stayed clean,
nothing can be done for the gypsy now.
Rusty water gushes from the tap,
you can’t sleep, all night you prowl
the hospital corridors in the dark blue light
glancing out through the windowpane.
How little time you’ve spent in the world,
surely it’s not all the same?
(I’m finishing reading a tragic book,
left by someone in a rush to leave.
And yes, I’m tapping my dentures
In time to music by Grieg.)
Yeah, couldn’t care less, though there are times...
I’m indifferent, but at times, now and then
I close my eyes for a moment,
and then I open them again,
and wrapping my arms around my legs
I think about death for real,
staring aimlessly at the hospital wall
with its painting of birch trees.

All poems translated by Sasha Dugdale
Modern Poetry in Translation 2004