You were incarnated wingless and naked,
A child, a young monk,
A lithe stalk born from an aspen stake,
By the three orange trunks,
Breathless from birth, as hollow as a straw,
And as wet as paper,
A boot lieu angel, a Johnny raw,
A rookie, a puppy.
Neither charcoal nor oil, neither blood nor ink,
Unsexed and unsensed,
You were incarnated a silly prank,
A meme, a jest,
A mistletoe branch, abyss and distress,
A blind little furball,
What can you do for us, you so incongruous,
Awkward and feeble?
No pastor, no leader, not a covenant writ,
Not a word, not a sword,
What should we do with you, so nondescript
Neither man nor maiden, a suckling, a seedling,
What were you made for,
Who needs you down here, what use is your meaning,
What use is your metaphor,
While we are ready to crash and burn
In the battlefield hell,
What do you need, tell us, where do we turn,
And how can you help,
If all that you know,
Are these words from down low
(But who’s gonna heed them?):
Translated from Russian by Dmitri Manin
“WHETHER IT WAS…”
Whether it was too much wine that made him sick
Or too much news that made him sweat,
But Sergey was paid a midnight visit by his grandpa, a WW2 vet.
Grandpa sat down on the Ikea stool, so that his broad back would block
The view from the window. He said: Seryozha, we need to talk.
Can you please, my dearest grandson, whom I adore,
Not post anything about me on Facebook, never, no more?
Not in any context, whether with or without the letter “zed” or the letter “zee.”
Just don’t do it, says grandpa. Don’t post anything about me.
Don’t claim any victory in my name.
I’d be happy, his grandpa continued, if I could persuade
You to stop showing me off at the parade.
I beg of you, dear (here, grandpa motions with his wrist),
I don’t want to be in a regiment.
Not the immortal one, not the mortal, Seryozha. I won’t enlist.
Let me rest in peace, Seryozha.
I earned my rest.
Yes, I know you’re smart, driven, liberal, you’re all of those.
This life is not what you chose.
But it’s also not what I chose!
We’ve lived our one and only life.
It was hard. Now, I implore:
Can we please stop serving you
As poster boys for war?
We’re done here, kids.
We’ve gone down into the ground.
Can you start from scratch without us
This time around?
We don’t need your pride.
We don’t need your secret shame.
I ask you to make sure the world
Forgets my name.
– But then, I’ll forget how we couldn’t find “The Ninth Wave”
In the Russian Museum – and I don’t want to forget,
Or how you changed my clothes
When I woke up sick, drenched in sweat,
How we looked for the poles in the atlas,
And how you’d explain
Why there was a white trail in the sky
Behind every plane,
How you gave me a book by Prishvin,
And a magnifying glass one day…
That’s fine, says his grandpa, vanishing.
None of that did you any good anyway.
Translated from Russian by Anna Krushelnitskaya
Sorry to bother you.
My last name is Lot.
To keep it short,
last night things got hot,
so everyone ran,
and me and my wife
hightailed it from under the shells.
And we did understand
the main rule was – not to look back.
Except all around us it was such unbearable hell
that she must have gotten
She forgot, and
I myself find it hard to believe
that this is my woman,
and I’m not talking about her looks,
not about those damn body standards,
although her old body was killer,
she did used to model:
no smoking, no booze…
Age does change everyone,
but still, excuse me,
she was a model of a human,
not of a pillar.
Sorry for texting;
I had many sleepless nights in a row,
and I do know
it’s not a country that will ever help me,
but still, please tell me
if there are any inventions
to help me out a bit,
since now she can’t fit
due to her new dimensions?
We don’t ask for a lot.
She’s just like a tree.
She doesn’t need food,
and I’ll do without,
not a big deal to me.
What choice do I have? Our love was fated.
And now together we’ll stand
in any old stand of trees in a vigil…
It’s just that in Europe
pillar size is regulated,
we were told,
for now, the rules are less rigid.
Translated from Russian by Anna Krushelnitskaya
Evgenia Berkovich is a Russian theater director. She graduated from Kirill Serebrennikov’s workshop at the Moscow Art Theatre School in 2013 and participated in Serebrennikov’s Seventh Studio project. She was detained on May 4; her house and her relatives’ house were searched. On May 5, 2023, she was arrested and charged with justifying terrorism. The claims against Berkovich arose from the production of Finist Yasny Sokol, “a play by Berkovich, based on a script by Petriychuk: an official announcement stated that the play “is about women who decided to virtually marry representatives of radical Islam and go to them in Syria”. Berkovich pleaded not guilty. In 2022, Finist Yasny Sokol won the Golden Mask Award for Best Dramaturgical Work and Best Costume Designer.
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