17 October 2013

Photography Lesson, 1 / Урок фотографии 1

Photography Lesson, 1

Here’s one more. Why the tears, you fool?
Try taking a squint through your fist,
and you’ll see two backs come unglued
from the wall they were leaning against,
you’ll see features begin to fill out,
and mouths open up in a smile,
an arm stretching out in front,
then two jackets who don’t realise—
plus two shirts, each one with a head—
that for years they have both been dead.
By that mountain of coats and hats,
like a white mouse, not coming through
(weak developing fluid, perhaps),
pick him out—standing there is you.

There I stand, my back to the wall,
underdone and a wee bit pissed,
and I’m watching what will befall
threaten me with its knotty fist.

(Translation © G.S. Smith)

Read Henry Pickford's translation here.

Урок фотографии 1

Вот еще. Что ты плачешь, дурак?
Посмотри на картинку в кулак
и увидишь, как две спины
отделяются от стены,
обретают объем черты,
раскрывает улыбка рты,
и вперед протянулась рука,
и не знают два пиджака,
две рубашки, две головы,
что давно уж они мертвы.
Там, где груда пальто и шляп,
недодержан, как белая мышь,
(видно, был проявитель слаб)
приглядишь — это ты стоишь.

Я стою, прислонясь к стене,
недодержан и под хмельком,
и гляжу: грядущее мне
угловатым грозит кулаком.

02 October 2013



A pity about Stolypin, speaking historically
or just sort of mulling it over;
a pity, too, about Bogrov and his hysterically
yap-yapping revolver.

A pity about that policeman. And about that crow
roaming about Bald Mountain.
A pity about the (plucked from the police crew
and pumping too much testosterone)

executioner, since dawn on the vodka –
but the blasted stuff won’t blunt his senses!
From the proboscis of pallid Mordechai
he removes those lenses.

The hangman takes pity on the Jew – let this Yid think
he’s dreaming, in a doze.
You must admit it’s awkward hanging by the neck
a man with a pince-nez on his nose.

(Translation © G.S. Smith) 

 Translator's Note:Dmitry Grigorievich Bogrov (b. 1887), whose birth name was Mordechai Gershkovich Bogrov, was simultaneously an anarchist revolutionary and an agent of the Okhrana (secret police). On 14 September 1911 at a performance in the Kiev Opera House he shot Petr Stolypin, the Russian prime minister, who died four days later. Bogrov was sentenced to death and hanged on 24 September 1911 in the Kiev fortress of Lysa Hora (Bald Mountain). Tsar Nicholas II soon ordered that the investigation into the shooting be discontinued, giving rise to unending speculation about the true motivation for Bogrov’s action. Alexander Solzhenitsyn discusses these events in his historical novel August 1914. Lev Loseff analysed the novel in his essay ‘Russia’s Great Future. Notes on Reading Solzhenitsyn’s August 1914’ (1984), and wrote this poem the same year, adding some details, such as the crow, that are not in Solzhenitsyn’s narrative.


Столыпина жаль, говоря исторически
и просто так, житейским манером,
но жаль и Богрова с его истерически
тявкающим револьвером.

Жалко жандарма. Жалко по Лысой
горе гуляющую ворону.
Жалко доставленного из полиции
с переизбытком тестостерону

душегуба, с утра хватившего водки —
но не берет, да ну ее к псу!
И он снимает с бледного Мордки
стекляшки, торчавшие на носу.

Палач проявляет жалость к еврею —
нехай жиду кажется, что всё во сне.
Да и неловко вешать за шею
человека в пенсне.