Mikhail Kukin. Four Poems. Translated by N. K.

Also in Translations:

Mikhail Kukin. Four Poems. Translated by N. K.

You say:

even though the temple is destroyed and there is no trace of it left,

above the altar

stands a patient angel

waiting for changes.

I say:

add to this angel with tidings,

dreams and errands

that crisscross the city

in every direction,

angels accompanying

our ridiculous chariots,

and angels

flying at everyone’s shoulders…

It is a small world, and if you look closely,

it is crowded

with invisible wings and other iconography:

scrolls, staffs, white chitons,

caring hands,

now strong, now gentle.
* * *
If I could, I would drink this summer,

As they probably drank in the olden days,

With my head tilted back

And my greedy lips to the cup.

I would pass the cup around

As they used to do in the olden days,

From hand to hand at a friendly feast,

So all my friends might have theirs.

I’d drink, mingling sadness with merrymaking,

I’d listen to the songs and look at the stars,

And my thoughts would be a swarm

Of honey bees, their wings tinkling.

And one of them would sting me in my heart,

And my heart would choke with poetry…

If I could, I would drink this summer,

As they used to drink a farewell goblet

                              at a funeral feast —

Without wiping tears from my cheeks,

On a long journey from which there is no return,

Seeing off a friend or a brother.
* * *

This Saul is angry beyond measure, they say!

A bookworm and a saint! Just a boy, but holier than holy patriarchs!

A Pharisaic seed! Dog! Bastard of vipers!

How to dodge his sting,

How to escape his evil claws?

It would be good to go north, home,

with my brothers to fish and pray…

But these – if you happen to run into them,

They’ll rip off your clothes and beat you, you won’t get up.

Help me somehow!

Only sunshine and white dust on the road.

So how to do this thing – to go and hug brother Paul?
* * *
don’t be sad

don’t be brokenhearted

the hand writes

words go west

roads head east

sultry skies

burning land

dusty convoy ahead

through the iron bars of days

no way back to the Bosphorus

no radiant eyes to see

don’t be sad

love is everywhere

and its golden threads

and the sun too

the same sun above us

at different ends of the earth

* St. John Chrysostom “Letters to Olympiad”
Translated from Russian by Nina Kossman

About the Author:

Mikhail Kukin
Mikhail Kukin
Moscow, Russia

Mikhail Kukin (born in 1962) started his studies at the Faculty of Cybernetics at MIFI but abruptly changed his life and joined the army. He served in the Western Ukraine near the town of Khotin. After the army, he studied at the Philological Faculty of Moscow State Pedagogical Institute. Currently, he gives lectures on the history of culture. His poems were published in many Russian literary journals.

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, 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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