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Seven Russian Poems - Sasha Chernyi


Two Senses

Someone says: “Form? Nonsense!

When shit is poured into crystal,

Does the glass become less pure?”


Another objects: “Fool!

If the best wine is poured into a chamber pot

It won’t make people more likely to drink it.”


The dispute can’t be resolved. . . Such a pity!

Indeed, it is possible to pour shit into crystal.


After Visiting a ‘Literary Society’

We are cultured: we clean our teeth,

Mouth, and both boots.

In letters, we are especially polite:

“Your most obedient servant.”


So then, why do we end

Any kind of debate—

like weak fools —

Imitating Papuans

And beating each other on the snouts?

True, it is usually through words,

But they smart just the same.


The Seeker

From the diary of a contemporary


At wit’s end, I went to the doctor.

He pushed a pince-nez down on his nose:

“Nerves. Anxiety. Too soon to tell...

“So, I’ll prescribe

Guniyadi Janos.”


The blood pounded in my temples:

Guniyadi?! For questions,

For disbelief, for boredom?!

“Well, I’m not a philosopher.

Good day.”


So I went to a philosopher:

“Is there a purpose? A book or a plan?

A true school, a definite path?

Like an ox, I live in the dark.



Pacing in a colorful dressing gown,

Its hem dragging the floor, he said:

“Even Socrates himself is helpless here.

You, idiot! Look around you!”

“Thanks a lot....”


In the street, I saw

A woman with a contented look.

I quietly approached her:

“Hello, neighbor…” – “You insolent beggar!”

“Pardon me….”


I went home in a daze,

My mind full of thoughts –

Each playing leap frog with the next:

First mockery, then insanity.



A nurse quietly entered the room.

There is still another philosopher:

“Why do you sit here like a wild animal?

Forget it, brother, just believe – without questions.”

“In Guniyadi?”


“Gu-ni-ya-di? Who’s that?

A German saint?

To save your soul,

One saint is as good as the next...”

She left.



Immortality? For you two-legged moles,

Who aren’t worthy of even a day on earth?

Perhaps—after feeling deeply offended—

Lizards, toads, and worms will want the same. . .


Petty bourgeois with wings! Gingerbread and cakes!

They gorged themselves for half a century and now they want eternity. . .

Not a bad trade. “Show mercy and generosity!”

Give slaves license for eternity.


They’re the wardens of their own earthy prison,

Gnawing at each other in their tiny holes,

Stealing psalms from the prophets

To mutter in their temples once a week. . .


To us, the sighted, it’s eternal grief,

But for them, the blind, even Bengals are reliable,

Gold tinsel shines in the distance,

And wedding gowns are guaranteed!


Don’t beg! The Lord is wise and strict;

Earthly days are wretched and artless,

The Lord will not release you—on the threshold,

You will all rot like carrion in the street.


Panurge’s Muse

A simian profile

With slits for eyes;

Dumpling lips and a potato nose:

Neither a girl nor a goat.


Hair like a fishtail;

No bust, more like a frying pan;

And growing from the chin—

It’s terrible, I know—a beard.


Choppy gestures, long feet,

Hands twisted backwards,

A voice thinner than a cobweb,

Canine teeth–some rotten.


Oh, darling, your laughter–

It opens gates. . .

Just stunning! An acid stench

Gushes from your mouth.


Eyes lost in craters in the skin,

Arched, balding eyebrows.

Dear God, after all this

We are to accept her naked?!


Mad House

Family—a mess of acquaintances—whiners,

An insufferable carnival of fools.

From work, from friends, from rotten politics

The brain is endlessly assailed.

Take books—garbage and filth:

One cat scratches,

Another licks, breeds filth

And mews sensually. . .


Peter the Great, Peter the Great!

You are the guiltiest of all.

What drove you to the wild north

To commit such a sin?

Eight months of winter—instead of dates, cloudberries.

Cold, snot, rain, darkness—Your mad head pulls you from the window

To fall down upon the bridge. . .

I am indignant, indignant! My God, what’s next?!


Each day, from a spoonful of kerosene,

We drink the poison of dim trifles. . .

Under the lewdness of senseless speeches

Man grows dull as cattle. . .


There is a parliament, no? God knows,

I don’t know. The devil knows.

Here—I do know—there is sadness,

And the impotence of anger exists...

People moan, are deranged, run wild,

But don’t consider hateful days.


Where are we—dear one, dear blood?

Where are we—undying love?

Guchkovy, the Duma, slush, darkness, cloudberries. . .

My dear one! Doesn’t your mad head pull you

From the window to fall on the bridge?

Indeed, it does pull you, right?


All trousers are cut in the same way,

Same goes for whiskers, overcoats, even pots.

I am the same as everyone on the street

And blend in completely at the corner. . .


But I would not trade in my personality

To become a member of it all, or it of me—

I wrap myself entirely in indifference

And fear them all decisively. . .


I curse culture! I tear off suspenders!

I trample pots! Shred overcoats!!

I’m jealous of each and every beech tree,

I live like the last fool. . .


To the forest! To the lakes, the virgin firs!

Like a lynx, I will climb their rough limbs.

I’m tired of walking along parquet floors

And looking upon painted women!


A raven will bring me Swiss cheese,

A stray goat will give me milk.

If toward evening it becomes cool and damp,

I will be covered in a blanket of moss.


There will be no newspaper articles and reports.

One can lie under a pine tree and rest a bit,

Steal sweet smelling honeycombs from a hollow elm

Or, when bored, take from the land. . .


But winter will come—I won’t hold up in camp:

I will be hungry, sire, anemic—

So I will go to Glahn, as the lieutenant’s friend:

He has a generous apartment and table.


And I will say: “Lieutenant! I—a Russian writer—

Left my passport in the capital and went into the forest,

I was as tired as a dog—believe me, friend—

as seven-hundred angry alligators!


People in the city perish like pitiful slugs,

I wanted to save my own hide.

Lieutenant! I ran from the senseless life

And came upon you along the way. . .”


Wise Glahn will say nothing to me,

But will bring game, wine, and cottage cheese…

Only Glahn will allow me to thoroughly commune,

But otherwise—I’ll run back to the city.


End Cap





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