Poets of Ukraine. Boris Khersonsky. Wisdom Floats in a Sea of Sorrow like an Ancient Fish. Translated by Nina Kossman

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Art by William Turner
Poets of Ukraine. Boris Khersonsky. Wisdom Floats in a Sea of Sorrow like an Ancient Fish. Translated by Nina Kossman


Where are you jews of the levant the wise men of megrib
where are you theologians of incomparable cappadocia
wisdom floats in a sea of sorrow like an ancient fish
four-legged fish of the past must have looked like this

there used to be scribes who counted letters in words
and commentators who interpreted numbers instead of meaning
because the meaning is buried in the ground
and nonsense hangs like a rainbow overhead

every hunter wants to know where the pheasants sit
every hunter goes ahead with a loaded shotgun
every punisher wants to know where the partisans hide
every fool thinks he was created in the image and the likeness

everyone believes the Eternal Master sculpted him
from the dust of the earth with his own hands
and the fish of wisdom in a sea of sorrow hesitates
floating away from us moving its four fins
* * *
где вы евреи леванта где мудрецы мегриба
где богословы несравненной каппадокии
мудрость плавает в море печали как древняя рыба
почти что четвероногая раньше были такие

раньше были писцы считавшие буквы в слове
и комментаторы толковали не смысл а числа
потому что смысл похоронен в земле в основе
а бессмыслица радугой над головой повисла

каждый охотник желает знать где сидят фазаны
каждый охотник идет напролом с ружьем заряженным дробью
каждый каратель желает знать где сидят партизаны
каждый глупец считает что создан по образу и подобью

каждый считает что его из праха земного
лепил Предвечный Мастер своими руками
и рыба мудрости в море печали помедлив немного
уплывает от нас шевеля четырьмя плавниками

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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