Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Vitaly Pukhanov


Translated by Philip Nikolayev

* * *

I have not seen my mother for such a long time
that old ladies have started to remind me of her.
Here she is on her way to buy bread,
here she is awaiting the streetcar in the cold,
and here she is in a line at the savings bank.
Her wine colored winter coat and her
emerald storm coat know no wear and tear,
the sable collar retaining its stern dignity.
She never recognizes me.
We have not seen each other for ages.
I have changed a great deal.

* * *

By winter's road, a red triangle
colored the snowdrift from a pant leg:
as cars break down, here, out of town, 
a man broke down.

Two fellows with no trace of haste
measured him at the state's expense
and rolled him away on a cart,
but the mark will persist through March.


I played hide-and-seek with ghouls.
They were regular guys, hair buzzed 
except for the fringe that reached the eyebrows.
"Ready or not, here I come!"
They never found me once.
"That's 'cause he's so skinny."
Those juvenile ghouls attended School #153.
I do not have a page on the old boys' network,
no one searches for me. 
My classmates aren't there either.
Some may have been impaled with an aspen stake
at Kandahar, while others are likely
to have received a silver bullet between the eyes
in Kiev at the corner of Khreschatyk and Proreznaya.
I'm not sure where they have all vanished,
but they're solid gone.