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Translated Poems



The Two-Headed Man and the Paper Life 


There was once a two-headed man. He sat at an office desk and wrote down somebody's fate. Employees went to and fro carrying folders full of everyday-ness. Peeping in, a little girl shuddered with convulsions, and shrieked, 'What's this HORRIBLE THING doing here?' 
      The girl was taken away and treated for hallucinations; guards were stationed at the doors.
 
      This tale is told merely for the edification of those who enjoy peeping through the key-holes of their paper lives.
 




The Centre of the Universe 


The red comb of that pheasant is the centre of the universe. The pheasant moves and sometimes even flies, and the centre of the universe shifts about with him. Why this particular pheasant, you ask, and why his comb? But the One Who Knows The Answers has already shrugged his shoulders, the movement causing his grey comb to shake at the same time. 




Be Careful with Kites 


When flying a kite in the long-suffering heavens, you never know what you may catch. If it's a dead bird or a piece of aircraft metal, no problem. But supposing a snag gets caught, or, God forbid, the moon? Our daring kite-flier will then find himself in direct and prolonged connection with the skies. 
      And it isn't so far the case that, should he finally decide to release the kite, it won't give chase to him. 




007 


James Bond retired and settled in the Soviet Union – for whose break-up he was responsible. His pension was delivered to him by pigeon-­post from Yorkshire. On Tuesdays, the former 007 attended party members' meetings, and made recordings with a tape-recorder embedded in a cigarette. The meetings ended with the singing of theInternationale but James Bond, on principle, murmured through his grey moustaches, 'God Save the Queen'. 'Here's our comrade from the developing republics singing out of tune,' said the nimble old men, in their Pioneer ties, patting Bond lovingly on his cast-iron shoulders. 




Aesthetics 


At first, the Montagues and Capulets were friends. But then there arose a disagreement concerning the style of their hats. When aesthetics are involved, mountains of dead bodies will follow without fail. 




Friendship till Death 


It’s difficult to be on friendly terms with your friends. All could be well, were it not for their nice habit of working with scissors.
      ‘More tea?’ my friend asks kindly, trimming my left ear. ‘Some vodka perhaps?’ the other friend adds, simultaneously cutting off my surplus chin.
      Crawling away, completely bandaged, I take to my bed at an unknown enemy’s place, and when people approach me I make a hideous animal face, so as not to tempt them to sudden friendship.




The Alarm-Clock Bomb 


The alarm-clock bomb rings up like an uninvited guest and offers you an experience of ravaged Nirvana. There's nothing you can do except sing it the pointless song, 'May there always be me.' Sometimes the alarm-clock looms up first, quietly ticking in the doorway. It's better that you hear it.



Translated from the Russian by Carol Rumens and Yuri Drobyshev


(First published in Blind Spots by Carol Rumens, Seren, 2008; 
'Friendship till Death' first published in ''The Liberal'', April/May 2007, England)




Pabako


The pabaco is an exotic fruit. It doesn’t grow everywhere; it could be said that it doesn’t grow anywhere, but all the same it’s imported from somewhere, put onto tables – and people find that it’s edible, to their great delight. So the pabaco fruit would almost be the fruit of people’s imaginations, were it not for its juicy blue flesh inside a snow-white skin. And its stem is red, so therefore the pabaco tree is considered sacred in countries with red, white and blue flags. As there are very many countries like this, the pabaco fruit is considered a national dish in each of them.
      Many people, of course, have bought cartons of pabaco juice, which makes skin white, eyes blue, and brings to the cheeks what is called the bashful blush of the pabaco-eater. However, even half-litre cartons of this juice are so expensive that people only buy them on monthly national holidays. It's said that this is for the best, because if this juice (or the compote that is made from chopped up blue, white and red seeds that crunch on the teeth) is consumed more often than this, then the colours fall differently on people – skin becomes blue, or even navy, eyes go red, and hair turns white. These people, like prophets of old, cause holy terror in those they meet; they are avoided and given the most unpleasant of jobs to do: being zealous about their red white and blue country. These grey-haired subjects with blood-filled eyes and bluish skin are taken around in cars with blacked-out windows, and sent to live in houses where the windows are not transparent.
      In one country the pabaco fruit has even ended up on the state flag, together with three lions, who for many years have been bearing their teeth at it, unable to take a bite. This flag is supposed to illustrate that complete human happiness is impossible to achieve, a fact, which the inhabitants of the red white and blue country had guessed long before this flag appeared. The author of these notes must admit that he has tasted this wonderful fruit, and moreover completely legally. Just like the other so-called chosen ones, he is allowed to write about such lofty themes as the sacred pabaco tree, the monthly national holidays and being zealous about the land of one’s birth. The chosen ones write on white paper with reel ink, and sometimes even with the blue liquid that flows through their veins.


Translated from the Russian by Siobhán McNamara


(First published in ''The Prague Revue'', 2008, Prague) 




Agamemnon in Cambridge 


Agamemnon is giving lectures on psychology. ‘You love them when you don’t know them, and you know them when you hate them’ he says. ‘And knowledge changes your face, so that by the time you’re forty you get ambiguous congratulations from the mirror,’ adds someone’s portrait from the wall. 
     After the lecture Agamemnon drinks goats’ milk in the bar. The milk is brought in especially for him from an Irish farm. 
     ‘Is a private life important for a male academic?’ one of his students asks him. Choking on his milk, Agamemnon thinks: ‘I’d love to send the young pup down to Pluto for insinuations like that’ but he answers aloud, calmly: ‘A man can live in a heavenly landscape too. Indeed, and he can guess at the love of girls and all people. The clouds will depict this love for him, and even completely figuratively – showing him three noble visions.’ 




A Witness of an Underwater Time 


Hardly anyone has noticed that the octopus, as well as possessing eight legs, also wears a tie. The octopus is unlikely to be able to explain why he needs this finishing touch to his dress – perhaps it’s a sign of a self-esteem that has been challenged too often? All in all, the octopus is honest, scrupulous and poor. He doesn’t need much. Perceiving the endlessness of the underwater paths on which his epoch got lost, he thinks about himself: I am a creature without a name or a biography. I have a body, but it’s almost transparent. My brain is transparent through and through. My memories are gradually becoming colourless; my voice cannot be heard from under deaf waters. So what’s left? What’s left? 
     The sharks smile crookedly: there’s a lot left – ink. 




Dr. Livingstone’s Africa


Some people carry the Northern Lights inside them, some a Brazilian beach or a Japanese rock garden. What Dr. Livingstone carries inside himself is Africa.
      In this Africa an enormous brown ape sits under a tree and small black monkeys scratch her heels. If another large ape appears nearby, she walks on straight through the first one, not causing her the least harm: the strong can exist in different worlds.
      The brown ape from Dr. Livingstone’s Africa needs a good example to imitate. When things become absolutely unbearable for her, Dr. Livingstone sends her his human form. It climbs up to a branch above her, and she spends hours looking up at it, all the time sitting in the one position.
      Meanwhile Dr. Livingstone goes around without his human form. His observations suggest to him that in the world as he knows it there are far fewer people than human forms. The people float like shadows along paths and streets, and to stop themselves from being blown away they carry something weighty: the Northern Lights, a Brazilian beach or a Japanese rock garden. As we already noted, Dr. Livingstone carries Africa inside him.
 




The Abyss is Calling 


Night was drifting along the black river from village to village, from century to century. History was swimming behind it, spluttering and spitting out silt. At one point in space there was an unscheduled stop, and in the timeless silence was heard: ‘Farewell Ramirez, Gonzalez and Rodriguez! The abyss is calling you!’ 
     Then there followed an abrupt command – and a splash… 
     A General emerged from the darkness, and announced where the next unscheduled stop would be. New gold medals with pictures of Ramirez, Gonzalez and Rodriguez jangled mysteriously on the general’s uniform. 
     The darkness did what it does best: it closed in.


Translated from the Russian by Siobhán McNamara


(First published in ''Shadowtrain'' No 26, 2008, England) 











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