after Osip Mandelstam
In Red Square, giant plasma screens loom blank
and wall-eyed, there’s no news today. The Kremlin
thug needs time to think. He never counts his
losses, pays no heed to them. His mongoloid eyes
turn unperturbedly to the southwest. Any day now,
he plans to perform the prisyadka on the streets of Kiev.
Under the black belt moon, he cocks one leg,
a kick to the solar plexus, to the groin, to the temple.
Pectorals flex, Abs ripple. His favourite cocktail,
Polonium-210, he serves up to those who dare oppose.
His expression resembles that of a firing squad,
this former KGB analyst calculates the odds quiet
as frost at midnight, his every move accounted for:
pieces of tibia, femur, cranium, each precious object
finds a place on his chessboard. Any day now,
he plans to perform the prisyadka on the streets of Kyiv.
* * *
По мотивам Осипа Мандельштама
Бельма плазмы на стенах сегодня пусты,
нынче нет новостей с Красной площади. Кремль
думать будет. Бандит не считает потерь,
их не видит в упор. Чуть пришибленный взгляд
безмятежно бросает к зюйд-весту. Вот-вот —
и вприсядку пойдет по Крещатику он.
На луне — черный пояс; он ногу задрал —
кому в пах, кому в лоб, а кому и подвздох.
Мышцы гибки, пресс в кубиках. Лучший коктейль
из полония — тем, кто сверх меры свистит.
Смотрит, как на расстреле и с тем же лицом,
в КГБ научили просчитывать риск —
ум как инеем в полночь подернут. Любой
хрящ, сустав или череп сгодится на ход,
на доске свое место найдет. И вот-вот
он Андреевским спуском вприсядку пойдет.
Video of Max Nemtsov reading his translation:
Stephen Oliver is an Australasian poet and voice artist who has also worked as a newsreader, a journalist, and a copy and feature writer. He has published more than 20 volumes of poetry, and his writing has appeared in a range of international journals and anthologies.
Max Nemtsov is a literary translator and editor.
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