The Bookshelf: Poems by Eduard Bagritsky
After the Civil War Eduard Bagritsky returned to the native Odessa to work in the southern division of ROSTA, the Russian news agency, together with Yury Olesha, Vladimir Narbut, and Valentin Katayev. Bagritsky's talented, multicolored poetry provided, in its time, a master school for the young poets of the 1920s and 1930s
And Pushkin crumples into blueish brittle
Snow’s blanket. And he knows this is the end…
The cruel bullet’s sting is true and it’ll
Take poet’s lifeblood with its flighted trend.
The bloodied shirt… The fur cape now abandoned.
The sledge’s runners’ rattles seem to cough.
The forest and the snow and journey’s boredom,
And now the burdened sledge speeds off, speeds off…
And Pushkin dozes. He again remembers
All that by lover cannot be dismissed –
His Goncharova’s spreading curls, like embers,
The silent, honey-eyes that he has kissed.
Chance wind will not dispel the poet’s craving,
In lonely pine trees’ needles freezes land…
…Towards the rebel poet’s heart the raving
Tsar Nicholas directs the wretch’s hand!
Gendarme is here! He’s tracking needles’ bleeding –
His finger on the trigger, stubborn-faced,
His pupils, unintelligent, receding
Peruse where Frenchman’s slender pistol’s placed…
And how can I, who’ve studied all that’s needed
For writing verse and firing rifles well,
Leave call to vengeance for spilt blood unheeded,
Or not reward the singing killers’ yell?
For Pushkin in Crimea I’ve sought vengeance,
I’ve carried Pushkin over Urals’ heights,
With Pushkin I have staggered through the trenches,
A hungry barefoot host to lice’s bites.
And, uncontrolled, my heart has then pulsated,
And in it carefree flame’s begun to flare,
And as machine guns’ fire has screamed, elated,
I’ve feasted on beloved Pushkin’s fare!
And so the years still chart their course unswerving,
And in my heart there swells a burst of song…
…Spring blooms – and Pushkin, now avenged, deserving,
Still sweetly freedom loves as all along.
Translated by Rupert Moreton
The drumming swans have fallen silent far away,
Beyond the sultry meadows cranes have ceased their whooping,
Above the ruddy ricks a hawk is circling, swooping,
And in the reedbed autumn rustles with its sway.
On broken wattle fence the agile hop now trains,
The apple droops, the scent of morning plum is wafting,
In cheerful inns the beer into the kegs they’re drafting.
From darkened hush of fields comes quiver of pipe’s strains.
Above the pond the light and pearly clouds drift by,
And lilac and translucent, western skies are gleaming.
And, bush-concealed, the boys to catch the birds are scheming —
Their snares they’ve set where needles’ green blots out the sky.
From fields of gold, from where a haze of blue smoke reeks,
Behind the laden wagons moves the girls’ procession —
With swaying thighs concealed by skirts of skimpy hessian,
And sunburnt, almost honeyed gleam of golden cheeks.
In autumn meadows, where the vastness has no bound,
The hunters hurry under wraiths of misty lacing.
And in the drizzly dampness, where the pack’s been chasing,
Spin sharp and horrid howls of hounds who prey have found.
And from the gloomy thickets drunken Autumn tramps,
His frigid hands now clasp the darkened bow and tighten,
And aims it at the Summer as the fields his dances brighten,
On swarthy back a yellow raincoat as he stamps.
And dallying sunset on the forest altar slab
Sets fire to blackened nard and bloody crimson’s splashes,
And flies the chilly sound of falling apples’ crashes
Towards the summer turf, the headboard’s crown to dab.
Translated by Rupert Moreton
Deribasovskaya at Night (Spring)
Across the dirty sky, words etched with rays
of greenish light: “Chocolate and Cocoa.”
And cars, like cats with trampled tails,
wail frantically: “Meow! Meow!”
Black trees, like scraggly brooms,
have swept the rouged stars from the sky,
and red-haired, loud-mouthed trams
creep over cobble-skulls — done for the night.
Dolphins of granite, looking like fat pugs,
drink from a grimy fountain’s spout,
while Pushkin’s statue reaches for a smoke
and asks a lantern: “Have you got a light?”
Decadent clouds go floating overhead,
and women’s lips all smell like cheap cigars.
The crescent moon — an orange sausage link —
dangles above the roadway’s parted hair.
A seven-story house, arms full of signs,
smokes coal like dandies smoke cigars,
and a red-nosed lantern in a schoolboy’s cap
winks at a sign — he’s doing great so far!
Atop the lakes of oily asphalt, ruddy stars
worship the night in a black mass…
O pimps, rejoice, raise chimneys from the rooftops —
Rue Déribas has found its poetess!
Translated by Boris Dralyuk