To accompany our issue Trafika Europe 13 – Russian Ballet, we’re pleased to present a series of Trafika Europe Corner columns featuring poetry from several Russians that didn’t make it into our journal.
Here we present three poems by Alexander Kabanov, a Russian poet residing in Ukraine. Author of nine books of poetry, he has received the Russian Prize, International Voloshin Prize, Anthologia Prize, and the Novy Mir Literary Magazine Award for the best poetry publication of the year. Kabanov also edits the cultural journal SHO, and coordinates the International poetry festival Kyivsky Lavry.
These poems are translated by Philip Nikolayev.
As winter was cold on the heels of the earth,
like a blind man’s shadow in a cinema,
it stepped on the ice and the tall ships froze
to the insides of their very masts –
so there’d be no more God or evil
in your icy body, dear pal,
so that every mast may turn a yellowing
straw in the horror cocktail –
so that the last blend of thought and thirst
would flow entombed, like the Pripyat River,
and so you could drink the crew ghost by ghost
up through that straw forever.
Your life is hardly catastrophic,
its sceneries could be much worse.
Hark to the tenor of your epoch
and try to capture it in verse.
The dolphins bark as the ship sails
on. Destiny’s a pile of hooey.
Sadly, they no longer exile
or execute for poetry.
God has not yet shut down this dirty, rotten bordello
and isn’t prepared to unleash a new global flood,
because folks still walk their dogs daily and say hello,
because folks still daily feed their cats their cat food.
So let folks kill other folks along with their other gods,
let them write terrible books, paint execrable canvases,
what’s lacking is a strong hand with an iron rod:
humankind are but chattel slaves to beauty’s cause.
Our purpose of life is to ply our folksy crafts,
to secure roaming service, to stock the granary,
so we imitate birds and grow flowers on mountain cliffs,
creating such beauty it’s too easy to go crazy.
Embracing your knees, you sit at the close of days,
perceiving starkly with wide wine-misted eyes
the four horses and the riders on them as pale as pale
can be, and behind them the waves of newborn tribes.
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