Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Oleg Dozmorov


Translated by Philip Nikolayev


Of death, again? A boy was once alive,
better than us,
so throw away your magazines and thrive
a hundred years.

The specter of sublimity won't rise
afresh, there's nix.
Why do you still sigh and romanticize,
innocent kids?

On the bloodstained slopes of the Caucasus
is our Romanticism,
with its windswept truckloads of human carcasses,
lice, rheumatism.

Don't even start, it only ends in terror.
Style is a war.
Style is, forgive my bathos, a whole era.
Need I say more

and do you crave an ugly yet elegiac
untimely death,
hastening down the sensuous, lyric, tragic
star-studded path?

* * *

I now shut down the poetry shop
and open a store of mishaps,
evil and common human sins,
etc. along those lines.
I buy off old debts and stock unwon
victories, and if you are one
to call me a huckster, come and help
my huckstery, bring me disaster
and mishap. Then - faster! - escape.

* * *

" learn to react to the world
in a verbal fashion, and what's more, in rhyme
and in time to the appropriate meter
prescribed by ages of tradition: is that not,
among the available lots, a most
glorious and well glorified destiny?"

The world composes another dirty spring.
Tajiks are sorting through Russian garbage
with stoic solemnity, and I
envy them for some reason: they're people.
If only I could forget Russian, leave and live
away, far, where we ourselves are Tajiks

and there are no dictionaries, encyclopedias,
books or need for literacy or orthography,
the only extant words being I, you, he,
cheese, telephone, flatbread, maize.
To lead a basic life, to find 
a job and a place to undress and fall asleep in.

One day we'll come back and it's all Islam here, 
as everywhere else in this blessed world.
Two or three friends will recognize us. 
At the cemetery, revisiting the beloved 
graves, we'll parse the tombstones slowly, 
like epitaphs in college-level Latin.