Four Translations and a Poem by Larissa Shmailo

by Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin

I loved you once, and this love still, it may be,

Is not extinguished fully in my soul;

But let’s no longer have this love dismay you:

To trouble you is not my wish at all.

I loved you once quite wordlessly, without hope,

Tortured shyness, jealous rage I bore.

I loved you once so gently and sincerely:

God grant another love you thus once more

June 25, 1939

by Arseny Tarkovsky

It's frightening to die, and such a shame to leave

This captivating riffraff that enchants me,

The stuff so dear to poets, so very lovely,

I never celebrated; it somehow wasn't to be.

I loved to come back home at the break of dawn

And shift my things around in half an hour.

I loved the white windowsill, and also the flower,

The carved faceted glass, and also the water,

And the heavens, greenish-azure in their color—

And that I was a poet and a wicked man.

And when every June came with my birthday again

I'd idolize that holiday, bustling

With verses by friends and congratulations from women,

With crystal laughter, and gay glasses clinking

And the lock of that hair, unique, individual

And that kiss, so entirely inevitable.

But now at home it’s all set up differently;

It's June and I no longer have that homesickness.

In this way, life is teaching me patience,

And turbid, my blood now is stirring this birthday,

And a secret anxiety is tormenting me—

What have I done with my great destiny,

Oh my God, what have I done with me!

by Aleksandr Blok

Night, avenue, street lamp, the drug store,

Irrational and dusky light;

Live another decade, two more—

It stays the same; there's no way out.

You'll die, then start again, beginning

And everything repeats as planned:

Night, the cold canal's icy ripple,

The drug store, avenue, and lamp.

Vladimir Mayakovsky’s Last Poem

Note: Vladimir Mayakovsky's final poem before his suicide. The Oka mentioned is a tributary of the Volga. “Cloved” is an attempt to translate VM’s pun on ischerpen (“exhausted, finished’) with the neologism isperchen, (“peppered up”). 

It's after one. You've likely gone to sleep.

The Milkway streams silver, an Oka through the night.

I don't hurry, I don't need to wake you

Or bother you with lightning telegrams.

Like they say, the incident is cloved.

Love's little boat has crashed on daily life.

We're even, you and I. No need to account

For mutual sorrows, mutual pains and wrongs.

Look: How quiet the world is.

Night cloaks the sky with the tribute of the stars.

At times like these, you can rise, stand, and speak

To history, eternity, and all creation.

Anna Karenina: #MeToo

Ah, Merezhkovsky: to you I was a mare

ridden badly by a man; and because of him,

his error, I had to be destroyed. And Lev, my dear:

You never gave me my own voice, you didn’t dare.

What did I talk about when I did talk, after all:

Abortion with Dolly? Every damn thing

Vronsky did, that I did better? The problem

was not that I was sexual: (Men, you

count on that.) The problem was that

I was smart. But sexual women must be killed;

All the books attest to that.

 

Merezhkovsky permeates the consciousness

of Slavic scholars, is the Anna story, still,

but I fault you most, Lev. You knew, soon

that the problem was not one woman

and one man; it was all women, all men. You had

Vronsky climb in society, while I—damn, I even

knew more about horses than him!—I was

the scarlet woman, though our offence was the same.

 

Did I abandon my child? Or did a martinet

bar me from him? Ah, she holds Vronsky back!

Ah, the guilt!

 

Oh, there is no talking to you.

You sent me the dream

that haunted your ruling-class sleep,

a peasant with an iron,

the proletariat that said, fuck you

and your landlord’s way of life.

You killed me with the railroad that they built

for you. Because you “had to.”

Where was your Resurrection then?

You repudiated Karenina, it’s true,

but you abandoned me to my fate.

And so, Lev, I still struggle,

a century and a half later,

to have my story told.

 

Larissa Shmailo is a poet, novelist, translator, editor, and critic. Her new novel is SlyBang; her first novel is Patient Women. Her poetry collections are Medusa’s Country, #specialcharacters, In Paran, A Cure for Suicide, and Fib Sequence. Her poetry albums are The No-Net World and Exorcism, for which she won the New Century Best Spoken Word Album award. Shmailo is the original English-language translator of the first Futurist opera, Victory over the Sun, by Alexei Kruchenych, performed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and theaters and universities worldwide. Shmailo also edited the online anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and has been a translator for the Eugene A. Nida Institute of Biblical Scholarship on the Russian Bible. Currently, she is guest-editing an upcoming Russia and politics issue of Matter. Please see more about Larissa at her website www.larissashmailo.com.