Poets of Ukraine. Alexandr Kabanov. “Just before daybreak…” Translated by Dmitri Manin

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Poets of Ukraine. Alexandr Kabanov. “Just before daybreak…”  Translated by Dmitri Manin
Undated handout photo issued by street artist MyDogSighs of his mural in Northcote Lane, Cardiff, Wales.
Poets of Ukraine. Alexandr Kabanov. "Just before daybreak..." Translated by Dmitri Manin

Just before daybreak, when darkness starts to reveal
the age of foliage, snow, grass, sleeping people,
glass shattered bloody, wounds beginning to heal –
don’t cry, my dear, it’s impossible to defeat evil.

At the hour when no one’s left to crow three times,
for the rooster’s been roasted and ended his days as food,
silverware stolen, Mein Kampf published and advertized
don’t cry, my dear, it’s impossible to defeat good.

Dead birds hugging their nests are falling from trees,
dolphins are drowning, it’s the last chance before doom,
given to save us, but god disallowed lend-lease –
our immortality, yours and mine, is an equilibrium.

Hunger, death, devastation, fear, the original sin –
there is no axe to hack them, they won’t die,
and only love chomps up slime and filth, sucks it in,
but only love is your smile, only love will win,
and now, my dear, is the time to cry, to cry.
* * *

Перед самым началом утра, когда проступают швы,
едва подсохшие ранки, битое в кровь стекло,
возраст спящих людей, снега, листвы, травы:
не плачь, мой милый – непобедимо зло.

В час, когда трижды некому прокричать –
съеден петух на ужин, семейное серебро –
было украдено, вышел майн кампф в печать,
не плачь, мой милый – непобедимо добро.

Мертвые птицы, обняв свои гнезда, падают вниз,
тонут в море дельфины, это последний шанс –
дан во спасенье, но бог запретил ленд-лиз,
наше с тобой бессмертие – это баланс, баланс.

Голод, разруха, смерть, страх, первородный грех –
непобедимы все, нет на них топора,
и только любовь – сосёт, хавает грязь – за всех,
но только она – спасет, и только она – твой смех,
а вот теперь, мой милый, плакать пора, пора.

About the Author:

Aleksandr Kabanov
Aleksandr Kabanov
Kyiv, Ukraine

Alexandr Kabanov (born 1968) is a Ukrainian poet who writes in Russian. He lives and works in Kyiv. He is the author of fourteen books of poems and numerous publications in magazines and newspapers.

About the Translator:

Dmitri Manin
Dmitri Manin
California, USA

Dmitri Manin is a physicist, programmer, and translator of poetry. His translations from English and French into Russian have appeared in several book collections. His latest work is a complete translation of Ted Hughes’ “Crow” (Jaromír Hladík Press, 2020) and Allen Ginsberg’s “The Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems” (Podpisnie Izdaniya, 2021). Dmitri’s Russian-to-English translations have been published in journals (Cardinal Points, Delos, The Café Review, Metamorphoses etc) and in Maria Stepanova’s “The Voice Over” (CUP, 2021). In 2017, his translation of a poem by Stepanova won the Compass Award competition.

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