Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Elena Fanailova


from Survey of Literature

Translated by Stephanie Sandler

Watercolor of a Matador

Spring, adrenaline, we walk as kings,
We follow the departing heavenly ship,
And, in expectation of heavenly catastrophes,
Stale expressions, clammy embraces, 
Even honest relationships are unbearable.

What do we talk about? Society gossip,
About the city built on blood, the laying down of bones,
About money earned from glossy magazines
And, remembering that we walk as kings,
About the poor and the ill, the downtrodden and the tired 

And opening our eyes in the morning,
Like every foolish bit of evil in Gogol,
We curse our own fates
And the good fortune of red death in the world,
Frowning, we take stock of what we can, 
For we have plowed up the roots and torn back the bark:
There's nothing left to subtract from us.

(The Italics Are Mine)


Having walked the pathways of faceted glass,
She was a companion, someone to write poems to 
In the era when poetry flowed
From human shortcoming,
When poetry was waiting 
For dry remainders,
It did its best, I beg your pardon, 
Like a hysterical bitch,
In that era when poetry bore
Responsibility for the paroxysm deep
Enough to kill you: as if to say, I warned you,

In other words, trashed and thrashed 
Like the swirling contents of a decanter.
Tequila and beer ran through the veins, 
Or rather absinthe and morphine derivatives.

She was the only one it left untouched,
It preserved her brilliant mind 
And cut her off, kept her out 
Of the land of holy madness


Khodasevich is dying in a clinic,
And Poplavsky sticks himself and gets drunk
Alcoholics, cripples, and cynics
Departing on a midnight flight

The sun boarded shut 
The sick-wards-bilious hells
The Russian god and Yiddish luck,
The flesh, the host, the marmalade jam, all melt

Make a date under the sycamores.
Combine the wings of a dragonfly
With fibulas--the kind 
Youngsters use to keep the score