@Rhymes From Russia
Popular Poetry Page


Collection of Poems

Translated by Alec Vagapov



My life, like a rocket, makes a parabola

flying in darkness, ó no rainbow for traveler.


There once lived an artist, red-haired Gauguin,

he was a bohemian, a former tradesman.

To get to the Louvre

from the lanes of Montmartre

he circled around

as far as Sumatra!


He had to abandon the madness of money,

the filth of the scholars, the snarl of his honey.

The man overcame the terrestrial gravity,

The priests, drinking beer, would laugh at his «vanity»:

«A straight line is short, but it is much too simple,

Heíd better depict beds of roses for people.»


And yet, like a rocket, he flew off with ease

through winds penetrating his coat and his ears.

He didnít fetch up to the Louvre through the door

but, like a parabola,

pierced the floor!


Each gets to the truth with his own parameter

a worm finds a crack, man makes a parabola.


There once lived a girl in the neighboring house.

We studied together, through books we would browse.

Why did I leave,

moved by devilish powers

amidst the equivocal

Georgian stars!


Iím sorry for making that silly parabola,

The shivering shoulders in darkness, why trouble her?...

Your rings in the dark Universe were dramatic,

and like an antenna, straight and elastic.


Meanwhile Iím flying

to land here because

I hear your earthly and shivering calls.


It doesnít come easy with a parabola!..

For wiping prediction, tradition, preamble off

Art, History, Love and Àesthetics


to take parabolical paths, as it were!


He leaves for Siberia now, on a visit.



It isnít so long as parabola, is it?




There is Bukashkin, our neighbor,

in underpants of blotting paper,

and, like balloons, the Antiworlds

hang up above him in the vaults.


Up there, like a magic daemon,

he smartly rules the Universe,

Antibukashkin lies there giving

Lollobrigida a caress.


The Anti-great-academician

has got a blotting paper vision.


Long live creative Antiworlds,

great fantasy amidst daft words!

There are wise men and stupid peasants,

there are no trees without deserts.


Thereíre Antimen and Antilorries,

Antimachines in woods and forests.

Thereís salt of earth, and thereís a fake.

A falcon dies without a snake.


I like my dear critics best.

The greatest of them beats the rest

for on his shoulders thereís no head,

heís got an Antihead instead.


At night I sleep with windows open

and hear the rings of falling stars,

From up above skyscrapers drop and,

like stalactites, look down on us.


High up above me upside down,

stuck like a fork into the ground,

my nice light-hearted butterfly,

my Antiworld, is getting by.


I wonder if itís wrong or right

that Antiworlds should date at night.

Why should they sit there side by side

watching TV all through the night?

They do not understand a word.

Itís their last date in this world.

They sit and chat for hours, and

they will regret it in the end!

The two have burning ears and eyes,

resembling purple butterflies...


...A lecturer once said to me:

«An Antiworld? Itís loonacy!»


Iím half asleep, and I would sooner

believe than doubt the manís word...

My green-eyed kitty, like a tuner,

receives the signals of the world.



Iím waiting for my friend. The gateís unlocked.

The banisters are lit so he can walk.


Iím waiting for my friend. The times are dull and tough.

Anticipation lightens our life.


Heís driving down the Ring Road, at full speed,

the way I did it when he was in need.


He will arrive to find the spot at once,

the pine is lit well in advance.


There is a dog. His eyes are phosphorescent.

Are you a friend? I see youíre not complacent...


Some headlights push the darkness off the drive.

My friend is to arrive.


He said that he would come at nine or so.

People are watching a TV show.


Should animosity drop in Iíll turn it out, ó

Iíll wait around.


Months, years go by, but Hermanís not in sight.

The whole of nature is cut off from light.


Iíll see my friend in hell, or paradise, alive.

I have been waiting for him all my life.


He said heíd come at nine or so today.

God save him while heís on his way.



 I started up the engine and I lingered.

Where should I go? The night was fine, I figured.

The bonnet trembled like a nervous hound.

I shivered. Night lit up the houses around.

The Balzac age, I felt its burning pain,

Chilled to the bone, I couldnít hold my own.

The age of balsam wine mixed with champaign!..


So I looked up, and wound the window down.


They were young, two pretty-pretty fellows,

wearing fur coats, looking slightly careless.

«Youíre free, Miss, arenít you ? Care for delight?

Five hundred now. One thousand for the night».


I flared up. They took me for a prostitute.

My heart was jumping. What an attitude!

They want you, youíre young, youíre a whore!

Indignant, I said «Yes», instead of «No».


The other one, so «sweet and pure»,

swaying his hips, looking aside,

said: «Have you got a friend, as rich as you are?

I, too, will take it. A thousand for the night».


The brutes! I thought Iíd better vanish!

I stepped upon the gas and left the site.

My heart, however, jumped for joy and anguish!

«Five hundred now. One thousand for the night».



in memory of B. and S.

  Poor Russia!

All is dark.

Thereís a fetor of a dog.


Past the power stations, lorries,

funnels, space flights, masts, so high,

like a satellite of Progress,

a decaying dog

gets by.



 In my land and yours they do hit the hay

and sleep the whole night in a similar way.


Thereís the golden Moon with a double shine.

It lightens your land and it lightens mine.


At the same low price, that is for free,

thereís the sunrise for you and the sunset for me.


The wind is cool at the break of day,

itís neither your fault nor mine, anyway.


Behind your lies and behind my lies

there is pain and love for our Motherlands.


I wish in your land and mine some day

weíd put all idiots out of the way.

+ + +

 Evangelists were wrong in claiming:

it was to heaven that His hands He stretched

when legionaries, the metal-brained men,

into the flesh the metal pins had fetched.


Letís shake our hands, itís time for separation!

He was prepared now for resurrection,

He stretched His hands turning his eye

to the two thieves on crosses nearby.


 + + +

 Dear colleagues, I m so happy:

nowadays when all is well

Iím the only one who happens

to be criticized like hell.


Iím a black sheep. No objection,

for my living does make sense

Ďcause I set off the perfection

of my flawless author friends.



 A poet canít be in disfavour,

he needs no awards, no fame.

A star has no setting whatever,

no black nor a golden frame.


A star canít be killed with a stone, or

award, or that kind of stuff.

Heíll bear the blow of a fawner

lamenting heís not big enough.


What matters is music and fervour,

not fame, nor abuse, anyway.

World powers are out of favour

when poets turn them away.



 My doc announced yesterday :

«You may have talent, though itís hidden,

your beak, however, is frost-bitten,

so stick at home on a cold day».


The nose, eh?


As irretrievable as time,

conforming to the laws of medicine,

your nose, like that of any person,

keep growing


with triumph!


The noses of celebrities,

of guards

and ministers of ours

grow, snoring restlessly like owls

at night, along with plants and trees.


Theyíre cool and crooked, resembling bills,

theyíre squeezed in doors,

get hurt by boxers,

however, our neighbourís noses

screw into keyholes, just like drills!


(Great Gogol felt by intuition

the role they play in manís ambition.)

My friend Bukashkin who was boozy

dreamed of a nose

that grew like crazy:

above him, coming like a bore,

upsetting pans and chandeliers,

a nose

was piercing

the ceilings

and threading

floor upon the floor!


«Whatís that? ó he thought, when out of bed.

«A sign of Judgement Day ó I said ó

And the inspection of the debtors!»


He was imprisoned on the 30th.


Perpetual motion of the nose!

Itís long, while life is getting shorter.

At night on faces, pale as blotter,

like a black hawk, or pumping hose,

the nose absorbs us, I suppose.


They say, the Northern Eskimos

kiss one another with the nose


It hasnít caught on here, of course.

 + + +  
 Weíve lived much too long. Itís so pleasant.

Such a thrill.

No poet gets killed for the present

which means there is no one to kill.



(W. Smithís theme)

I will no longer love you, my fair

when two Sundays meet, neck and neck,

when the roses spring up everywhere,

turning blue as the blackbirdís egg.


When houses stands on their chimneys,

when a mouse commences to coo,

when hot dogs eat up human beings

and when I think of marrying you.



 I hate you, rubber souls, you seem

to stretch to fit any regime.


Theyíll give a yawning smile, stretched wide,

and, like an octopus, theyíll draw you tight.


A rubber man is an elusive rogue:

a fist gets sucked into the bog.


The rubber editor is scared of script,

the author is bogged down in it.


A rubber office I used to know

where «yes» was stretched to courteous «no».


I pity you, elastic crank,

as if erased, your past is blank.


You have erased many a passion, many a thought,

but you were happy and excited, were you not?...


Above the waist you are a cowardly man,

an ace of spade, and an unlucky one...



Tired with all these, for restful death I cry...

Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

Sonnet LXVI


«I look around and I want to die, in earnest,

a drunkard is the only one whoís honest,

my land is being plundered, I can't like it,

Iíd die before all people kick the bucket.

I want to die on hearing idle chatterers.

A Soho graduate lectures on moral matters.

A boor appears innocent and gracious,

and lust for augmentation laughs in our faces.

Those ugly creatures (did you see any?),

I want to die for they are many...

There is my friend among those mates but, really,

deserting him would be unfriendly».


I should have killed myself long, long ago,

but love for you deters me from the action,

and I repeat : «trust passion evermore»,

trust passion!

Long live the saying : «I wish I were dead»!

Love tends to cause a negative reaction;

it is, of course pernicious passion, ó yet

trust passion.

Authority will fall. The selfish mind ó betray.

The transport routes will be refashioned.

Believe in passion, do not leave me, pray,

trust passion!


 + + +

Flying sideways the Earth he left,

the East and West were on his left,

the North and South were on his right,

the heartbeat led him in his flight.


It was somebodyís heart which called

from a remote,

unknown world.


He saw what no one could define,

he got it, and he said: «You are divine».

And he dissolved, lost in the Crux of love.

But it was love

that he knew not of.


What's that, flying over you,

ten comes first and one comes last?

Seven, six, five, four, three, two.Ö

Start? Blast?



Bethlehem flies to the rear?

Living feelings turns to dust?

Nine, eight, seven, six, four, three ó

Start? Blast?



Countdown starts with tenÖ

Anti-counter's switched on.

Voreman, Pushkin, Budda, Zen.

Has the time of apes begun?



Stalin. Peter. Back to front.

Taxi meter starts to count.

There is one year left until

Russia's christened at its will.



Someone in «The Cloud In Pants»

is old fashioned, and he counts:

«Eight, nine, ten». Do count it right:

«Nine, eight, seven». Done in flight.



Building shrines, old Greeks were smart.

Nietzsche says: «In God we trust!»

Which of us involves a start?

Which of us involves a blast?



Hatha-Yoga. Drugs for pain..

There's no mail at all again.

Only «Goethe-Eckermann»

And «Astafyev-Eidelmann»



Like a horror up to heaven

the word «If» is flying past.

Countdown: nine, eight, seven,

six, five, four, three. Start? Or blast?



Sorry for us stupid wits,

Time of video clips and pics.

Sorry for the little kids

aged ten, nine, eight, seven, six.



We release what they have banned,

like «Zhivago», thrilling me.

Are there many names at hand?

NineÖeightÖ sevenÖfiveÖ fourÖ threeÖ



Slowly, in the storm of fight

freedom target moves along

like a road post on the right :

«9», «8», «7» and so on.



Why do we have Kitty, Levin,

Jesus Christ, Marx, Budda-zen?

Countdown: nine, eight, sevenÖ

Ends with zero, starts with tenÖ



+ + +

 Washed down by sunlight, the trees

quietly come into sight

reminding of feathers of geese ó

Take one and write!


(A. Josef's Theme)

 I love You so. I love You when

I feel Your back, Your voice, Your shoulder,

You shroud me with Your whole body

like waterfall or poring rain!


I love to be inside Your fate,

Your doubts and Your perturbation,

I wish Your faint blood circulation

were open, like a green garden gate.


Blessed be the fruit of good intent,

Your drowning bosom, and your lenience!

I've chosen You out of millions

just for that reason, dear friend.


Like leaves of bushes, thin and fine,

I feel Your lungs pulsate and shiver.

I hear Your entrails, Your liver,

You are all pure and divine!


Why has life taken such a course?

I only want when days break out

to see a glass, a hand stretched out

marked with a blue vein of Yours.



A girl and her stark naked bonny

are dancing in public. They dig it.

Rejoice, it's the porn of the body!

But there's the porn of the spirit.


A man with an air of importance,

an expert in art, like a wizard,

is lecturing to the audience

revealing his porn of the spirit.


Picasso to him isn't clear,

Starvinsky's corruption of ear.

Even a whore from Paris

to hear it would be embarrassed.


Dressed up and bedecked by jewels

the millionaires pig it.

They wallow in riches like boors

revealing their porn of the spirit.


When people censure at meetings

adultery of a spouse,

demanding intimacy details,

the porn of the sprit howls.


How dare you! How can you shout!

Our habits can be so beastly!

We want it unveiled and let out

while even for two it's a mysteryÖ


Adultery should be condemnedÖ but

the eye in the hole, I presume,

is much more indecent compared

with what it can see in your room.


Strip-teasers and belly-dancers

have got to be scourged as wicked;

the spirit ó that is the answer.

Away with the porn of the spirit!


* * *

Forgive me, Lord! Going through stages

I've known many different changes:

from a triangular, three-cornered pear

to a quadrangular headwear.



 My older rhymes, to my dismay,

go with a swing and how.

They were written yesterday,

which means they're written now.


I wrote to issues of the day,

enraged for evermore.

They curse and censure me to-day

the way they did before.


They're stiff with issues of the times.

To hell they all must go!

There is no end to their crimes

to-day, just like before.


The rhyme is nice, but ó God forbid! ó

your heroes should no more

be «epochal» in word and deed

the way they were before.


You're sitting on the window-sill,

your knees swing to and fro.

I met you long ago, and we'll

be meeting, like beforeÖ


    * * *

Do not go back to former lovers,

the former lovers are all gone.

There are just copies,

like little houses,

where they used to get along.


You will be given a hearty welcome,

a dog will meet you with a bark,

two groves up on the hill will echo

the sound of barking in the dark.


Two echoes in the groves will sever

like stereo speakers split in two,

they spread around the world whatever

we have been doing, ó I and you.


At home the echo will drop the saucer,

the phony echo will give you tea,

the phony echo will want to host you

whereas she ought to shout to me :


«Do not come back, oh my beloved one,

we were before, but we are gone.»

Though two amazing kicks for once

will be uncovered in response.


When you depart, and you are bound

to throw the key into the stream

the groves up there on the mount

will shout echoing your scream:


«Do not desert your former lovers,

they're perished and will never riseÖ»


But you won't follow the advice.


    * * *

 I feel I'm nearing my final destination.

The body seeks relief in a carouse.

The spirit, tired of the body, calls,

for a back up, a cup of desperation!

The world is lost in a thick wood and desert

amid grass-snakes and vipers, vicious ones.

The gossips creep out of ears, like worms.

The Truth is quite a rare guest at present.

I'm tired of waiting, and believing, too.

Oh God, when will the seeds you planted sprout?

The hour of death will find us filled with shame,

for we shall never know the truth sent down by you;

and even death won't save us, and, no doubt,

the angels will repudiate us, just the same.


* * *

The only living one among the dead,

he knew what Hell and Paradise were all about.

Like an anatomist he knew the ins and outs

of righteous Purgatory he chanced to tread.

He witnessed God. The poem, starred with grace,

like a church bell over my land kept ringing.

A poet needs awards from heaven for his singing,

what he does not need is the human praise.

(It's Dante whom I mean, of course.

Contemporaries misunderstood his mission.)

The brutal gang laughed at his poetry and prose.

Misunderstanding men of genius, I suppose,

is an unwritten law. Give me his vision ó

and may I be condemned the way he was.



 Fate is above me. Why should I browse?

Sleeping in dosses, an outcast, I rove.

Grief is a cellar,

that opens in every old house.

A ditch is below me and fate is above.


What did I want? Well, a life of contentment.

What did I get? Just a coffin and wreath...

Under the cradle a grave has been latent.

Fate is above me, a ditch is beneath.


Up in the sky my soul, like a hound,

howls, despaired,

the trigger to pull it was keen.

Fate has come over my family background,

and on the earth where fate is my kin.


What have I done, apart from the simple

poems I've written in passing to date?

I've been a lightening conductor for people.

Now I have broken my back. Such is fate.



* * *

 Oh Georgia, a view for the sightseers!

Eternity of human minds.

You're female fortitude of rivers,

male chromosomes of ancient shrines.




 «I have serious liver trouble,

therefore I mustnít drink.

As for me Iím conscience-stricken,

so I mustnít kill, I think.»


For the ones whoíre conscience-stricken

empty glasses we shall fill.

As for those with liver trouble

we shall have to shoot and kill.



 The holy crosses here resemble spears,

they sell the blood of God here on tap

and use a chalice as an armored cap,

while God has run out of patience, it appears.

If He descended now, ó upon my honor! ó

He would be seized and slashed and stained with blood;

theyíd strip the holy skin off Him, tear him apart

and sell Him to the first man round the corner.

I donít need any dole from double-dealers,

itís not incumbent on creators to succeed.

New times bring new chimerical ideas.

I feel ashamed for future: a new creed,

a holy one, may once again bereave us

of all thatís sacred to our hearts indeed!

 Unshaven and thin, with an angular face

Heís lain on my mattress

for several days.

A cast-iron shadow hangs down the stair,

the lips, huge and bulging, smuggle and flare.


«Hello, Russian poets, ó his voice sounds wistful ó

shall I give you a razor or, maybe, a pistol?

Are you a genius? Disdain all this chaosÖ

Or, pírhaps, you will say your confessional prayers?

Or take a newspaper, clip out a bar

and roll self-reproach like you roll a cigar?»


Why is he cuddling you when Iím there?

Why is he trying my scarf on? How dare?

Heís squinting at my cigarettesÖ Oh yes!


Keep off me! Keep off!




* * *

 A star, he didnít care a thing for praise.

I called those worthy of him, merely.

The voice of admiration we wonít raise

but those who censured him weíll scold severely!

He went through the appalling doors of Hell,

the doors of God were opened for the man as well;

whereas dull creatures, men of no esteem,

have shut the doors of Motherland for him.

Oh Motherland ! You were really shortsighted

when executing your most brilliant son,

preparing yourself for rigorous perdition.

Itís bad to be away from homeland, extradited;

but there has never ever been under the sun

a better singer and a worse proscription!



 First itís cheap, and then itís valued high.

Prices grow because of false assessment.

Value can be only measured by

the efficiency of our life investment!

Yogis need no knife to make a hack.

Scholars spend their lives on bomb invention.

Some will crush a hedgehog with the naked back

spending a decade on the projection.


Whatís the prison term at mutiny and strife?

Whatís the length of torment at creation?

All is measured by the scale of life ó

the integral scale of estimation.



Even age it can somehow defer.

Look at the young jade, whom they call «honey» ó

hundreds have invested their lives in her

as if she were a box for saving money.



Talent is the constant value scale

given to the care-free and generous

who will quench their thirst, without fail,

with the biggest gold-secured shares.



Man, donít hide your gift, for goodness sake.

Roads are false, but death will not deceive you.

Put yourself into a single check.

You did not mistake the cash-desk, did you?



 Sailor, my dear, my heaven-made spouse!

There is one thing that I beg of you, man:

Kiss any strangers, and give them your flowers,

love many women. But, pray, donít love one.



These are the words that I send with my letter,

piercing land after land they will moan;

stay there as long as you wish, and youíd better

love all the countries, but, pray, donít love one.



Give me a whistle ó when tired of roving.

Held in sweet bondage, or about to drown,

play with your life as you wish, when youíre roaming,

but donít ruin ours because it is one.

 * * *
 We neednít look for reasons and excuses.

We are not apes ó donít frown and complain.

Your mind wonít understand. My explanationís useless.

Your soul knows all. So why should I explain?

 * * *
 Iíll come back when you are away,

and Iíll cling to your rain-coat and blouse,

and Iíll know: it has rained night and day,

and you did go out of the house.



You would run down the porch to the gate,

then walk back to the porch feeling bitterÖ

Itís nice when they love us and wait,

but it doesnít make us feel better.



 Red cows
on the asphalt road have settled.
Lazing on the asphalt pan they lie.
We drive them round
for cows are sacred!
They are loyal to the highway,
we wonder why.
«Old herdsman, we want our question answered:
Why have the cows gone mad?» «God forbid!
The point is that flies do not like asphalt.»
Those modern cows! The are wise indeed!
They got it, the sly ones! Cattle of genius!
Unlike the poor, unfortunate flies.
«The flies know that asphalt
is carcinogenic.»
Those modern flies! They are really wise!

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