Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Nikolai Baitov


Translated by J. Kates

As Usual


As usual, on the terrace
I fly to you, an idle dream.
And here I am, composing verse,
Babbling a funny rhyme.

Dumb, my inspiration scatters.
Random, sidelong jumpy thoughts.
A hurried rainfall lightly patters
above me like a herd of goats.


As usual, on the terrace
I put together an old puzzle.
Are you really, let me guess,
indifferent to my razzle-dazzle?

I'm memorizing empty stains
and read the welcome hieroglyphs
precisely and succinctly limning
your explicit bas relief.


As usual, on the terrace
I drink vodka - neither glee
nor fire - heaping loss on loss -
anywhere in the cards for me .

I don't catch cause and consequence.
You know better. We - alas -
Meletsky sings, Meletsky stings -
"The heart wins nothing with an ace."


As usual, on the terrace
I'm watching where a spider lives,
Beautiful and mysterious
in its home beneath the eaves.

Off to the side it's built a web
out of its own silken pathways
And there is someone I'm expecting.
Am I  crazy? -  Please don't say.


As usual, on the terrace
a wild grape glows on the vine,
From time to time the shadows race
along the notebook in my hand.

A trembling of golden spots
puts fear into the lines I write.
Noon lingers, and the garden breathes
a torrid smell of creosote.


As usual, on the terrace
saying nothing, drifting off -
In turbid thoughts completely lost . . .
Night tossed and turned. A little draft.

A spruce was playing with a cherry,
a pine confounded with an elm.
And night passed along to me
The distant sound of an alarm.