Evgenia Berkovich. Translated by Dmitri Manin and Anna Krushelnitskaya

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Evgenia Berkovich. Translated by Dmitri Manin and Anna Krushelnitskaya
Evgenia Berkovich. Translated by Dmitri Manin and Anna Krushelnitskaya

 
1
 
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

So untoward?

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?):

It’s freedom,

it’s freedom,

it’s freedom,

it’s freedom,

it’s freedom.

it’s freedom.
 
Translated from Russian by Dmitri Manin
 
2
 
“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.

No victory.

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
 
3
 
LOT
 
Hello.

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

spooked.

She forgot, and

she looked.

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

into anything,

literally anything,

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

stupidly stand

quietly stand

silently stand

endlessly stand

in any old stand of trees in a vigil…

It’s just that in Europe

pillar size is regulated,

while here,

we were told,

for now, the rules are less rigid.
 
Translated from Russian by Anna Krushelnitskaya
 

About the Author:

Evgenia Berkovich
Evgenia Berkovich
Moscow, Russia

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.

Evgeniya Berkovich
Bookshelf
by Ian Probstein

A new collection of poems by Ian Probstein. (In Russian)

by Ilya Perelmuter (editor)

Launched in 2012, “Four Centuries” is an international electronic magazine of Russian poetry in translation.

by Ilya Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967) was one of the most prolific Russian writers of the twentieth century.  Babi Yar and Other Poems, translated by Anna Krushelnitskaya, is a representative selection of Ehrenburg’s poetry, available in English for the first time.

by William Conelly

Young readers will love this delightful work of children’s verse by poet William Conelly, accompanied by Nadia Kossman’s imaginative, evocative illustrations.

by Maria Galina

A book of poems by Maria Galina, put together and completed exactly one day before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is Galina’s seventh book of poems. With translations by Anna Halberstadt and Ainsley Morse.

by Aleksandr Kabanov

The first bilingual (Russian-English) collection of poems by Aleksandr Kabanov, one of Ukraine’s major poets, “Elements for God” includes poems that predicted – and now chronicle – Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

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