Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Grigory Kruzhkov


Translated by Boris Dralyuk

* * *
Snow serves as mountains for the city dwellers -
replaces kisses for abandoned lovers
and churches for the faithless. In December,
abandoned by the sunlight, we subsist
on frozen larvae of the summer radiance.

The snow is Jacob's ladder. By this way
descend our angels, those we love most dearly,
and, having stayed with us awhile, ascend
again into the dark above the streetlamps. 

Go build yourself another human creature
and, handing it a twig, leave it to stand
beside the doorway - so that all night long
it longs, and languishes, and burns for you, 
as for a being of a different nature.

The Rock,
A Third Anecdote about Wallace Stevens


Stevens's tussle with Hemingway,
as we know, ended badly.
Stevens was twenty years older,
fat, like Hamlet - and also hadn't eaten,
a piece of steak would have done him good!

He returned to Hartford with his hand in a cast and reported
that he'd fallen from a ladder. Too bad he didn't specify
from which. For instance,
it could have been the ladder to the altar
in Moneta's temple - the sole priestess
(as the poet correctly noted)
"of this desolation."

He could have said he'd fallen from a mountain - or from the moon,
or even a pagoda.
And that would have been true.
But the pagoda version wouldn't have gone over:
He would've had to explain to Elsie what he'd been doing in a pagoda
and what innocent maiden he'd been awaiting.


A soap bubble, on a deity's adjusted scales,
outweighs a rock (as we know). And that's a pity.
Out of a sense of fairness and squareness to the rock 
Stevens extolled it in its pure, unalloyed form,
having freed if from all suppositions and makeweights -

from Sisyphus, who bathed it in his stinking sweat,
from wounded Cúchulain, who tied himself onto a cliff
in order to die standing, from Pygmalion, with a chisel in his hand
and a fixed idea in his head, and generally from any
horseman or footman, who would proclaim himself King of the Hill.

The rock is what's left,
if we wipe off the mould -
left to rush and wheel about
as a stone from a sling.
Immobile stones cannot exist.
And that's the anecdote of the rock (so old, it's bearded)


Freshness, they say, is good for sour cream.
Whereas a poem, like an icon, needs
the sultriness of breath. It should hang up a while,
inscribe itself into some fathomable context, 
and even, if you'd like, become an eyesore.

Such are the metaphysics of beauty. One may like them    
or not, but to argue about them is foolish. A poet
without bones picked clean cannot exist.
The reader won't believe him,
until he reaches his finger hither - into an anecdote.