Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Dmitry Vodennikov


Translated by Matvei Yankelevich

* * *

In a Soviet schoolboy uniform I drank the stilted air
and after twenty years: a rainstorm in july
and i was tearing out-with longing, with the roots-
our names from letters we had sent.

With blood I tore up all that had been between us,
like weeds, when the earth is in your hands:
a violet-yellow vodennikov, and little Alya's cornflower blue,
Lena by the fence, and you, all red and black.

I threw them all at the feet of the rainstorm, in july,
without right of correspondence, as they say:
dad, step-mother, mom, Andrei, Polina, Yulya
(somehow Yulya was especially hard to throw away).

But I said to my sister: don't be afraid, dear
sister of mine and my brother, as i move 
into the dark, i bless all those who lived with me,
i bless them with a purple belly, a blue-eyed brim,
with the storm that creeps into the letters and the leaves.

The other way around-through false and broken sleep,
through bouncing balls and shouting in the yard-
i hear it all: you are alive and well,
and planning to live long upon the earth.

But what am i to do with shards and fragments,
with the shred that's torn apart in the lilac gloom,
from Sanya, the boy, my very own:
me, and this stupid love of mine.


			... and now: whatever you want,
			not only these Results*,
			and not just this politician with the beat-up eyes
			and totally not these soldiers,
			soldiers in bloody dust,
			but who
			will forgive them-them!-
			for their ugly feet
			(and why do i keep butting in, with my feet?)
			for their ugly feet,
			for their beautiful boots.

You who walks bowlegged,
perspires, sweats, for us,
then lies there, like aspic.
I figured it out, you want it just like this.
But it can't be.

That's not why we were asked not to shout,
why they fed us sugar, but filled us with salt:
neither to degrade,
nor to beat, nor to kill-
none of this will I allow.

O, this crimson, rough, fresh juice-
it flies so, like an appletree in april!
(and we'll think it's just more gunfire...)
"What's that on your soles, mister?"
"Dirt, m-my b-boy."
Oh, really...

Come one, get up already,
Arkharov, Barsukov,
Vodennikov, Ershova,
Khokhlova, Kholomeyzer, Khokhlyakov,
Khmelyova, Yatsuki-I CAN'T STAND IT!

I've had it-up to here-with you,
and I am-in your hands,
you-you're like jelly (Sit!),
and me-I'm like a battery,
you-you're wearing such amazing boots today
(all of you in such amazing boots today!)

and I'm without them,
and I am stronger-thank you