Julia Nemirovskaya. Qin Shi Huang. Translated by Dmitri Manin

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The Terracotta Army, a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE. (Wiki)
Julia Nemirovskaya. Qin Shi Huang. Translated by Dmitri Manin

Are we going to win or not Emperor Qin demands
His astrologer says it depends on the phase of the moon
But the moon Qin says has already left our lands
and the moon of clay can be only seen by blind men

The astrologer suggests divination by prisoners’ bones
by the flight of birds over the great river’s mouth
But they’ve burned all prisoners and who knows when they’ll capture new ones
and the birds learned clever tricks and migrated south

By the dying cries of maidens when soldiers rape and maim them
the astrologist says without looking Qin in the eye
But in order to have live soldiers we need live maidens
and ours are all made of clay we are running dry

So the Emperor says and he summons the guard
The astrologer grovels and crawls feet first to the door
They grab him and cut out his heart he touches the gore
They want you to tell their fortunes speak up my heart

The astrologer’s heart relaxes contracts relaxes contracts
Qin Shi Huang’s dead army rises for an attack
The Original
Победим мы или нет спрашивает император Цинь
Отвечает астролог все зависит от фазы луны
Но у нас говорит Цинь луна ушла из страны
а луну из глины видят только слепцы

Тогда по костям пленных гадать предлагает астролог
по полетам птиц над устьем великой реки
Но всех пленных сожгли ждать новых придется долго
птицы стали хитры и не попадают в силки

По предсмертным крикам дев когда солдаты насилуют их убивая
говорит астролог не глядя Циню в глаза
Но чтоб были живые солдаты девы нужны живые
а у нас все из глины без дев больше нельзя

Так говорит император и призывает охрану
Простершись астролог ползет задом к двери
Его хватают вырезают сердце он щупает рану
Ну сердце по тебе гадают давай говори

Сердце сжимается разжимается сжимается разжимается
Мертвая армия Цинь Шихуанди на бой поднимается

About the Author:

Julia Nemirovskaya
Oregon, USA

Julia Nemirovskaya was  part of Kovaldzhi’s Seminar and Poetry Club New Wave Poets. She published several collections of verse and short stories, a novel, and a book on Russian Cultural History (with McGrow-Hill, 1997, 2001). Her work appeared in Znamya, LRS, GLAS,  Asymptote, Vozdukh,  Novyi Bereg,  Okno,  Stanford Literary Magazine, etc. in Russian, French, English, and Bulgarian. She is currently teaching and directing student’s theater at the University of Oregon.

About the Translator:

manin_2021 (1)
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 Stepanova’s poem won the Compass Award competition. “Columns,” his new book of translations of Nikolai Zabolotsky’s poems, was published by Arc Publications in 2023 (https://eastwestliteraryforum.com/books/nikolai-zabolotsky-columns-poems).

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