Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Sergey Stratanovsky


Translated by J. Kates

"dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Sulamith"

Paul Celan1

O  the holocaust in Oświęcim2 
The accusation of a documentary film
		is interrupted by an advertisement
for the very latest cosmetics
		from the collection of a screen diva
A fashionable caprice 
		shoves its way into the death zone

What's in the collection?
		Eau de cologne for behind the ears
henna for the hair of the Lorelei
		powder for the cheek of Marguerite

Little bottles of nail polish,
		and compacts with the cremated ashes
Ashes of the bones of the Shulamite


What's with Russia? A turn to the West?
Will the smell of the back stairway 
Finally dissipate,

The smell of the psychiatric ward,
	the depression of those faces
That wasting gloom 
	finally disappear?


Philemon and Baucis
	in their own creaking hovel,
On their own burnt-over patch of land
	across from the new mcmansion,
Wait to be swept away by a storm -
	a private liquidation,
To clear the countryside.

1 "Your golden hair Margarete / Your ashen hair Shulamite"
2 The Polish name for Auschwitz.


The Russian Russophobe rushes to the river - to drown
("Fed up with living in this eternal vile squalor!")
But reconsiders: there is a choice - to emigrate,
Or (variation on a theme): to express in hellishly
Contemptuous verse his heartfelt, furious heat . . .

Which published, brings him a substantial fee

The Italian Rooms at the Hermitage

Umbrian dreams are a Russian ark,
	windows opening on azure hills,
But in the windows across the way:
	a Nevsky gloom, Stygian ice,
murky snow	
	and on the far shore, behind the blizzard,
The prison of all Russia. The hard mouth
Of cold cells.