Poets of Ukraine. Boris Khersonsky. For Alexander Roitburd (1961-2021)

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Alexander Roitburd. From the cycle "Grigoryi Skovoroda" (mixed media, 1986)
Poets of Ukraine. Boris Khersonsky. For Alexander Roitburd (1961-2021)

A rabbi in heaven sits on a golden throne.

On his left shoulder sits Moses, on his right shoulder, Aaron,

they whisper wisdom in his ears from both sides,

this is the oral Torah, the unbreakable law.

A kosher fish swims in a river of honey.

A cloud of milk grazes in a cloud of meat in the distance.

No one dares to boil a baby goat again in the milk

of a hussy goat bought for pennies at a town fair.


It was a good fair, and the town was not bad at all,

and its goat was a good, milking floozy,

and its synagogue was wide and east-facing,

and its mustachioed policeman sported a whistle in his crooked teeth.


Now they are all here, in the sky, where the challah is laid out on the table,

and yet I wonder about what’s left down there on earth,

how are the neighbors’ children, are they well off and warm,

do they still find gold crowns in the ashes.


If they do, they probably believe they are lucky!

A girl leans on her paddle in a park where the cemetery used to be.

In a synagogue, there’s a dance club or maybe a church—Christ is Risen.

Pity that from your heaven you cannot see these details.

About the Author:

Boris Khersonsky
Boris Khersonsky
Odessa, Ukraine

Boris Khersonsky was born in Chernivtsi in 1950. Khersonsky has published over nineteen collections of poetry and essays in Russian, and most recently, in Ukrainian. A book of his poems in English translations, The Country Where Everyone’s Name Is Fear: Selected Poems, was published by Lost Horse Press in 2022. He is widely regarded as one of Ukraine’s most prominent Russian-language poets.

About the Translator:

Nina Kossman
New York, USA

Nina Kossman’s nine books include three books of poems, two books of short stories, an anthology she edited for Oxford University Press, , two books of translations of Marina Tsvetaeva’s poetry and a novel. Her work has been translated from English into French, Spanish, Greek, Japanese, Hebrew, Persian, Chinese, Russian, Italian, Danish, and Dutch. Her Russian work was published in Russian periodicals in and outside of Russia. She is a recipient of an NEA fellowship, UNESCO/PEN Short Story award, grants from the Onassis Foundation, the Foundation for Hellenic Culture, etc. Her website is https://ninakossman.com/.

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