Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Maxim Amelin


Translated by Derek Mong & Anne O Fisher

Half Enraptured, Partially Indignant

Half enraptured, partially indignant,	
toting my antiquarian lyre-
	old thing I procured
for pennies at Tishinsky market-
	and unimpeded,

with news I move from town to village 
(both far removed and near as neighbors),
	I foot this distance.
Having once recalled the cerise-clad, spear-
	wielding warriors

with ill-will and thin lip service, then
to hasten into the distance, reel
	the goal actively
closer, this stands in for standing in
	one place, unmoving-

this I know for certain. And when trees
cleave at the crack of lightning's arrow,
	all shattered save one
side branch, this remnant will persist as
	the new cut trunk, so

vigorous. As for the muses, brown-
eyed girls, I'm neither their first lover
	nor yet their last one-
I'm not so dim I'd tie their dowry 
	down, then disperse that  

prized speech without proper accounting,
some cache I'd vainly blurt away,
	a flurry of word
and then... what? Well, to hell with all that-

I'm not heir to their budget-free
trust fund and seized by spending. Still, that 
	chasm's not a great 
one, between Homer and Herostratus,
	between the mighty   

and the meek. In erecting housing 
projects, they snatched the last gravestones
	and took them away,
a cemetery's leftovers-moss-
	covered and decayed.

How decisively time erects and
razes, leaving every stone upturned.
 You who preserved verse through such unrest
	and storm, a hundred

times are you blessed. Still, love and faith
thin quickly, and through hope alone can
	a person live on-
wordless splinter of a garrulous

who wiggles his lips like a gasping 
fish: "If we wipe our memory clean
	of its lingering
garbage, what then will ever remain?"

Translated by Matvei Yankelevich


"Long before any signs could augur
that you and I - called by Divine order
up from the void - would join the living,
the trees wept amber tears for us
because they knew that we would pass
some day..." The elegy's beginning

ends abruptly. For its continuation, 
alas, I've lost the inspiration
to drag out line for useless line in vain, 
at least as long as shaggy waves -
heirs to the golden fleece - leave
these rocky tears over the sand.

* * *

Shuffle to work like a melancholic,
then back again, with a skip and a jump,
swim with the current right into the whirlpool,
autumn and winter and summer and spring

stroll down the boulevards, all the while knowing:
can't catch the light, the creator won't come
bearing new laws in the place of the old ones,
can't bring to life those lost hearts and those minds

hungry for only the feed at their feet, so 
do what you will, they won't change, and I
am nothing more than a mutable form of
being and existence in time. 

* * *

I would like to have my own place
on the dead shore of a living sea,
where the winds, Notus and Boreas
cuff the heavenly bells during their spats
making the sky's bronze wail over the waves,
where it's never warm, only cold or hot. 

A golden sunset is a salve for weaker eyes
pink, turquoise, and the Milky Way, 
keeping sickness at bay, calming
the mind. My fine-tuned ear will not
be horrified by the thunderous sounds
of the verb-filled, song-loving chasm.

Familiar, since childhood, its every call.
I - a rare carrier of these two tongues -
mangle the lofty dialect 
when human language has hit a wall,
speaking in song, having turned 
words inside out and laid them flat.

What's left for me to do? The valley 
can't fathom difficult speech, so my voice
fell on empty ears. Why not half-live
and half-escape, serving a family of dual
origin, a flowing bird or a fish that flies,
in my own place on the outskirts of time.