Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Marina Boroditskaya


Translated by Ruth Fainlight

	Cordelia, you are a fool! Would it have been
	That hard to yield to the old man? 
	To say to him, "I, too, O darling Daddy,
	Love you more than my life". Piece of cake!
	You wanted him to work it out on his own - 
	Who was the best of his daughters. Proud fool!  
	And now he's dead, you too, everyone's dead.
	And Gloucester! Oh the bloody horror  - 
	His eye-sockets - the scene of the blinding -
	Fingers leafing quickly through the pages
	As if through plates of red-hot iron ... Here,
	Read it now. I'll turn away. You weren't there
	In that Act, were you? Go on, read it,
	Look what you've done, you stupid little fool!
	OK, OK, don't cry. Of course, the author
	Is quite a character, but next time	
	Make sure to be more stubborn, and resist:
	Viola, Rosalinda, Catherine
	They managed - why wouldn't you? Like a puppy,
	Pull him by the leg of his pants with your teeth
	Into the game, into comedy! The laws 
	of the genre will lead us out to light... Here, 
	wipe your nose and give me back the hanky.
	I still have to wash and iron and return it
	To a certain careless blonde Venetian
	In the next volume. Sorry I told you off.
	Best regards to your father. Remember: like a puppy

* * *

	"God is conscience", said Granny Vera,
	a water-sprinkled blouse steaming under the iron.
	When he saw me sitting under the standard lamp,
	God flicked the back of my head. I haven't forgotten.
	This is the way Granny talked about the ironed blouse:
	"The garment looks utterly different - don't you understand?"
	She and Granddad yelled at each other in what I thought 
	Was French: only later realising it was Yiddish.
	Grandpa Nahum taught me to run and to fight
	and grumbled in Latin that homini homo
	was a wolf. But I believed in brotherhood, friendship,
	equality and happiness - and running away from home.
	Granny Vera also said other funny things,
	like "upon my honour" instead of just "honestly",
	"Aren`t you ashamed?" she sighed, "Not thinking of others,
	wanting more than you`ve got? You`re disappointing God."

A dream

Translated by Sasha Dugdale

My poor spirit stands before
The heavenly medical board
Sight: shit, muscle tone: slight
Hearing: flawed
Naked, weighed and measured,
A trembling fool
Upon whom the narrowed eyes
Of the recruiting archangel fall.

The mysterious, the glorious
St Michael, the battle-scarred 
Asks only one question:
'Soldier, did you fight your hardest?'
'Well... I put my best foot forward...
I piped my pipe... Woke men's hearts...
And I... I never expected any reward
Ask Gabriel there  - he'll take my part.'

You wandered in a haze! You sprawled and lazed!
You mucked about
Dozed in the sun, half-dazed
Those heights you were to gain
From the dark - they were beyond you!
You will wake as a woman again
With winter upon you.


So I was wondering how they crossed that seabed
When the whole watery firmament was combed, wave to floor 
And the squelch, squelch, squelch, and the walls on either side
Going up and up like a great aquatic corridor

The babies were carried, the older children, I'm sure 
Fell behind, shouting: Look! Look what I've found! 
Was it really possible to walk the watery course 
Without stopping once to lift a shell's pink round?

What wonders they must have seen on that bed! 
The tentacles that jutted from the walls like booms
And yet not all of them knew why they fled
Nor remembered that behind them lay their doom.

And when the prophet Mariam beat on her tambour
And the sea walls bent, and with a tidal roar 
Crushed the Egyptians, their horses, swept, destroyed -
Did they shudder, even briefly, before they danced for joy?