Dmitry Danilov. Three Centimeters
Dmitry Danilov. Three Centimeters
Lake Baikal. Photo by N.K.
Dmitry Danilov. Three Centimeters


I remember in school
They taught us, they instilled in us
You’re responsible for everything
All the more so
You the Komsomol member
And in our good, bright song
There were these
Somewhat scary words
What have you done today for tomorrow
What have you done
And you stood there, bewildered
And you didn’t know
What you had done
For this obscure tomorrow
And what you should have done
What you could have done
And didn’t do
And what are you guilty of
And now they say
We are responsible for everything
You are responsible for everything
We are responsible for everything
You are responsible for everything
You are, yes, you are
You are responsible for everything

If all mankind is drowned
In Lake Baikal
The water level would rise
Three centimeters

You, a man
That sounds proud
You, who is responsible for everything
Why do you allow evil to happen
Why do you look indifferently
At injustice
What have you done
To keep the blood from flowing
Why don’t you confront evil?
All evil is because of people like you
Like you
Not standing up to evil
You are responsible for everything
You are responsible

If we drown all mankind
In Lake Baikal
The water level would rise
Three centimeters

Excuse me, excuse me.
Yes, of course.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
It’s my fault.
I didn’t do it.
I didn’t do enough.
I could have done something.
I could have tried harder
I could have done a better job
I could have fought harder
Could have written an angry phrase
On a piece of paper
Could have beeped louder
Words of disagreement
In a public space
I didn’t try hard enough
I didn’t try hard enough
I’m guilty
I’m guilty
I’m guilty

If all mankind is drowned
In Lake Baikal
The water level would rise
Three centimeters

And other people
Not guilty of anything
As though they have the power
They frown their eyebrows
They say
Yes, you didn’t try hard enough
Yes, you didn’t do enough
Yes, you, you, yes, that’s you
You didn’t try hard enough
You didn’t do enough
Yes, you are to blame
Yes, you, you all are to blame
You are all to blame
‘Cause you could have
Stopped the evil
And you didn’t stop it
Didn’t do enough to stop it
You didn’t work hard enough

If all mankind is drowned
In Lake Baikal
The water level would rise
Three centimeters.

A man stands on the shore
Of Lake Baikal
In Listvyanka settlement
It is not a very
Cute village
Equipped for tourists
Small restaurants
Covered with siding
Signs and buildings
Stacked on top of each other
All have
Commercial use
Shish kebab smoke.
The noise of passing cars
Inappropriate laughter of people

A man is standing
On the shore of Lake Baikal
He sees
The water level
Gradually rising
One millimeter, two millimeters.
Seven millimeters, ten

Twelve millimeters
Baikal has risen
And gradually the man
Is swallowed up by Baikal.
His legs are flooded
His genitals
His whole torso
Is flooded by the water of Baikal
His neck and head
Gradually disappear
In the crystal-clear water

And now it’s three centimeters
The water has risen
Three centimeters
And there’s no more Listvyanka
No more siding
No more restaurants, no more hotels
Omul, shish kebab

Three centimeters is a lot
It’s quiet now, it’s quiet
It’s cold, it’s nice
No one is responsible
For anything
And there’s no more

If all mankind is drowned
In Lake Baikal
The water level would rise
Three centimeters.

Translated from Russian by Nina Kossman


About the Author:

Dmitry Danilov
photo by Tatiana Nekrasova.
Dmitry Danilov
Moscow, Russia

Dmitry Danilov is a well-known writer of prose, poetry, and plays. His play The Man from Podolsk was awarded the 2018 Golden Mask in Drama/Best Playwright category and made into a movie. His dramatic works have been staged in Moscow and many other cities.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on telegram
Share on email
Dmitry Danilov Дмитрий Данилов
by Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry

Four teenagers grow inseparable in the last days of the Soviet Union—but not all of them will live to see the new world arrive in this powerful debut novel, loosely based on Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.


by Mark Budman

Every character in these twenty-two interlinked stories is an immigrant from a place real or imaginary. (Magic realism/immigrant fiction.)

by Victor Enyutin

A book of poems in Russian by Victor Enyutin (San Francisco, 1983). Victor  Enyutin is a Russian writer, poet, and sociologist who emigrated to the US from the Soviet Union in 1975.

by Anna Krushelnitskaya

This collection of personal essays by a bi-national Russian/U.S. author offers glimpses into many things Soviet and post-Soviet: the sacred, the profane, the mundane, the little-discussed and the often-overlooked. What was a Soviet school dance like? Did communists go to church? Did communists listen to Donna Summer? If you want to find out, read on!

by Anna Krushelnitskaya

“Cold War Casual” is a collection of transcribed oral testimony and interviews translated from Russian into English and from English into Russian that delve into the effect of the events and the government propaganda of the Cold War era on regular citizens of countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

by Nina Kossman

A collection of poems in Russian. Published by Khudozhestvennaya literatura. Moscow, 1990.

Three Questions. A Documentary by Vita Shtivelman
Play Video
Poetry Reading in Honor of Brodsky’s 81st Birthday
Length: 1:35:40