Poets of Ukraine. Boris Khersonsky. Olbia. Translated by Nina Kossman

Also in Poetry:

Olvia photo for Khersonsky's poem.
Olbia archaelogical site. The largest ancient Greek settlement on the Black Sea coast.
Poets of Ukraine. Boris Khersonsky. Olbia. Translated by Nina Kossman

Of course, the sea is blue and the waves are playful,
but it’s frightening to see them at the bottom of a cliff,
where once was an ancient city, a ground floor.
Thoughts of death will move you away from the edge,
the city was abandoned two thousand years ago.
If you are patient, you will be able to make a collage from shards.
If you are sharp-sighted, you will find a couple of beads, objects
of everyday life, and with luck, you might find some coins in the sand—
Borysthenes, Demeter, or a bottle shaped like a foot,
or a marble fragment of a bas-relief with a bull’s muzzle.
If you are looking for prey, you will leave here with prey
and return to the city and disappear in its thick crowd.

And the city will embrace you, and its antiques market
will mistake the ancient beads for red fish eggs,
both, after all, have spent time in sea water,
along with shrimps and seahorses,
along with everything within reach,
assuming we forget about tribes and tribal enmity.

But enmity lingers in the hearts of fools,
it is found in water and at bottom of excavation pits
along with remains of warriors of a penultimate war.
And here is an ancient eagle, its claws stuck in the back
of a bronze dolphin, which is just as ancient,
and the face of the Gorgon, who knew neither shame nor guilt.


Конечно, море сине, волна игрива,
но страшно это видеть на дне обрыва,
где когда-то был античный полис, нижний этаж.
Мысли о смерти от края тебя отодвинут,
полис две тысячи лет, как людьми покинут.
Из черепков терпеливый может составить коллаж.
Зоркий найдет пару тройку бусин — предметы
быта, а повезет — так отыщет в песке монеты,
Борисфен, Деметра, или бутылочку в виде стопы,
или мрамор — фрагмент барельефа с мордою бычьей.
Кто ищет добычу — уйдет отсюда с добычей,
вернется в свой город и скроется в гуще толпы.

И город примет его, и антикварный рынок
бусин не отличит от красных икринок,
и то, и это побывало в морской воде,
вместе с креветками и морскими коньками,
вместе со всем, до чего дотянуться руками
можно, забыв о племени и племенной вражде.

Но вражда сохраняется в сердцах остолопов,
ее находят в воде и на дне раскопов
вместе с останками воинов предпоследней войны.
И вот античный орел, когти вонзивший в спину
не менее древнему бронзовому дельфину,
и лик Горгоны, не знавшей ни стыда, ни вины.

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.

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