Lena Berson. “In the darkest times…” Translated by Anna Krushelnitskaya

Also in World:

Y. birds
Illustration by L.M.
Lena Berson. "In the darkest times..." Translated by Anna Krushelnitskaya

In the darkest times, neverthecursed before,
All you can think is this: war, war.
All you can do… not a damn thing anymore.

In case of airstrikes – there’s more use in a sandbag,
Than in my body in which my tongue starts to sag,
Not a language left in which it could still wag.

Our mother tongue, still the same (not the same, no)
No more makes us kin than do spittle bubbles we blow,
Or the way our fingers grow and our bellies grow.

Same speech, stuck to us like a suckling tick –
I wish your mutterances were muffled and thick,
Unlike the knell in their ears: shoot, maim, murder, quick;

Be as hushed as the ash after a flash of flame,
Like rain in the window hole, through the gaping door frame,
On the grass in the yard which was burned down in your name.

* * *
В темнейшие, темнеменьшие времена,
Все то, что ты можешь думать: война, война.
Все то, что ты можешь делать… да ни хрена.

На случай обстрела – полезней мешок с песком,
Чем тело мое с коснеющим языком,
Который уже не мелет ни на каком.

Родимая речь, все та же (не та, не та),
Роднит нас не больше пены у края рта,
Наличия пальцев, наличия живота.

Привычная, присосавшаяся как клещ,
Ты лучше бы стала невнятная немтыречь,
Чем биться в ушах: стреляй, убивай, калечь.

Шуршала бы ты не громче золы в костре,
Дождя по оконной бреши, дверной дыре,
Травы на сожженном во имя твое дворе.

About the Author:

Y. Lena Berson photo
Lena Berson

Lena Berson, born in Omsk, graduated from Moscow State University with a major in journalism; worked as a co-editor of “Sharmanshchik”, a newspaper of the Theater of Music and Poetry of Elena Kamburova. Her poems have been published in many Russian literary journals, such as Arion, Jerusalem Journal, Etaji, Novyi Mir, etc. Since 1999, she has lived in Israel. She works as a news editor.

About the Translator:

Krushelnitskaya Pic_East West (1)
Anna Krushelnitskaya
Ann Arbor, MI. USA

Anna Krushelnitskaya (b.1975) lives in Ann Arbor, MI. Anna’s original texts and translations appear in Russian and in English in various print and online publications. She has authored two collections of poems in English. Anna’s most voluminous work is the 700-page bilingual interview collection Cold War Casual/ Простая холодная война (2019).

Lena Berson Лена Берсон
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.

Three Questions. A Documentary by Vita Shtivelman
Play Video
Poetry Reading in Honor of Brodsky’s 81st Birthday
Length: 1:35:40