Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry


Tatiana Shcherbina


Translated by J. Kates

An Offshoot of Sense

I used to believe - suddenly, I don't,
My trivial faith in life has fled
like a puppy banging through a door
or this wind with its tail between its legs
and the door itself kicked off its hinges
from the reign of on to the black-out off.
Lightbulbs flickered, something sparked
in the wiring in my muscles - blood.
Maybe as icy cold as Venus
Or maybe as scorching hot as Mars,
it's not the temperature shining - belief
but bright-black, to tear out your eyes,
the entire cosmic fabric trembles
on a simple breeze, an anticyclone
of earth continually brings forth things,
a new edition, upgrade, a clone.
The cyclone blows without a hitch
through treetops, over roofs and wires,
and the world, dependent on it, strong,
mindless, and empty as a desert.
My understanding, my creative act,
is taken not as the crown of science -
as history. I give out my poetry
like sound, a negation of the silence,
a token of solidarity with those
who repeat from age to age
after the schoolteacher in class.
A clinging little singing firefly
climbs high up into a tree,
an offshoot sprouting on the naked twig.
See how it scratches at my ear,
a little leaf, a little ray of sun.


In Moscow there's a gang that will 
take care of lonely pensioners,
they choose a woman for themselves,
maybe one maybe two,
and push them onto the rails.
They come out onto the metro platform
as if they're going somewhere,
but there's nowhere for them to go:
the clinic nearby
and the markets, the nursing home,
if they kept all their faculties,
prison would be waiting for them,
but from time immemorial 
there's a well-thought out palliative  -
sedative and the television -
compressing the brain to a pebble
but inflaming the nervous system.
Russia is the kind of country
where, you live long enough, it's too long.
The pensioner is a grumbler, a trouble-maker,
an egotist, a useless extra,
an insignificant mythomaniac,
stubborn, sly, whining,
tiresome, senile and peppery,
and the one who doesn't fit the pot
is no pensioner, but an elder, they say,
the longer you live, the wiser you get.