Китайская Прачечная (Chinese Laundry) by Yury Kazarnovsky

Here in the half-darkness of a basement
more musty than melancholy,
more soiled than sorrow,
streams of dirty laundry flowed together,
like ailments towards laboratory doors.
Fallen on tablecloth,
a cream-colored cowboy shirt
lies like a leper in sticky jam,
and Li Yu Chan,
with his salivating pencil,
brings the bill
to the sinners and the redeemed.
He’ll tear their flaxen body to pieces.
A storm of shirt –
he’s their ruthless whip!
May the laundry sparkle
once again in its altered appearance!
In the cauldron of farfetched quantity
layers of clothing
toss and turn gravely,
dreams are boiled out of pillowcases,
and a shirt’s confession circles in the steam.
Kerchiefs swim,
cuddled up to them in fear,
socks with holes
are boiling,
and the bleach is laughing like a satyr
at the bed sheets’ sleepy bosom.
Then with a burn in each hair
the laundry is readied
for new torments,
to be beaten in a fever of cleaning
on the steep board of pain.
And another torture has been foretold:
Margo Ivanova –
Yu Chan’s wife,
durable to the touch and in character,
will iron the laundry at a most hellish pace.
Moaning, she bowed
the enormous, sinking suns
of her breasts
that dragged along like a mountain after the iron,
her breasts, that have been tried in labor and desire.
This wife is a delight,
and a child with slanting eyes sucks
a lollipop at the crossroads of the races.
The laundry has been laundered.
The bedbugs aren’t too big.
It’s time for Yu Chan to sleep at last.
He sleeps.
And a created whiteness,
born with difficulty from the sticky ooze,
descends to him in white-snowed dreams,
in the form of childhood, rice, and jasmine.
And the laundry’s snow whirls out of the dark,
out of the darkest of darks. And the first light, and image of purity,
gratefully kisses the parchment of his brow.

by Юрий Александрович Казарновский (Yury Alexandrovich Kazarnovsky)
a.k.a Юрий Алексеевич Казарновский
(1904 – 1960?)
translated by Bradley Jordan

.

Additional information: There is little information about Yuri Kazarnovsky online. Even his date of death, somehow, is uncertain it seems. His patronymic is Alexandrovich but apparently, for a long time, it was mistakenly believed to be Alekseevich – hence why sources might choose to forgo mentioning it.

He was born in Rostov-on-Don. As a student, he was a member of a subversive literary circle called Vremennik and was arrested by the Soviet authorities in 1926/1927. He spent the next four years (1928 to 1932) imprisoned in the Solovki prison camp. His poems of camp life were published in the OGPU-run prison journal “Solovetsky Islands“. He also worked on the construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal. In 1936 he published his only book Stikhi (lit. ‘Poems’).

Soon after, in 1937, he was caught up in Stalin’s purges, and spent four years in the Kolyma gulag. (As this was between 1938-1942 he was there at the same time as Varlam Shalamov who had begun serving a five year sentence in 1937. I don’t think there is any suggestion they ever met during their sentences, if ever at all, but I note it because Shalamov’s work instantly comes to mind when hearing of Kolyma. There are others who wrote of their experiences in Kolyma but Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales is probably the best known account of the gulags there). Kazarnovsky was rehabilitated by the state in 1955 and is believed to have died in 1960.

It is speculated that he was one of the last people to have met the poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in the gulag in 1938. He also worked in the camp in Mariinsk, Siberia. According to Dmitry Likhachev (who may be the source of the inaccurate patronymic due to either mistake or misquotation) Mandelshtam‘s wife, Nadezhda, tried to extract information about her husband from Kazarnovsky but it was in vain. He spent his later years in poverty and addiction, in Tashkent and in Moscow, where he corresponded with a contemporary, the poet Ilya Selvinsky (1899–1968).

Little information about Kazarnovsky’s life has survived. After his work was published in an anthology of poetry by Ogoniok (1989), the scholar D. S. Likhachev stated that he had met the poet while both were incarcerated in the Solovki Gulag from the fall of 1928 to the fall of 1931. However, the Rostov newspaper Komsomolets reported in 1989 that Likhachev was mistaken. Relatives assert that Kazarnovsky was arrested in 1937 and rehabilitated in 1955. The compiler of this anthology met him briefly to express admiration for his only book, Stikhi (Poems) (1934). Kazarnovsky was surprised that anyone knew his poems and seemed distant, as if the hands of death were already embracing him. His poems are filled with stunning, fresh, unforgettable imagery.

Biographical information about Kazarnovsky, p.477, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc.

For anyone looking for more of Kazarnovsky‘s poems here are translations by Boris Dralyuk of The Stroll and The Tram.

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

Китайская Прачечная

Здесь в полумглу подвального жилья,
Душней тоски, заношенней, чем горе,
Стеклись потоки грязного белья,
Как недруги к дверям амбулатории.
Упав на скатерть, кремовый апаш
Лежит в проказе липкого варенья.
И Ли Ю-Чан. слюнявя карандаш,
Подводит счет грехам и искупленьям!
Льняное тело будет он терзать,
Гроза рубах, он беспощадный бич их:
Пускай белье сумеет засверкать
Опять в переиначенных обличьях!
В котле надуманной величины
Пласты белья ворочаются тяжко.
Из наволочек выкинет он сны.
И паром вьется исповедь рубашки.
Плывут платки, прижавшись в страхе к ним,
Кипят носки, заношены до дырок,
И заспанную груду простыни
Высмеивает щелок, как сатира.
Потом с ожогом в каждом волоске
Белье идет на новые мученья,
Чтоб на крутой и ранящей доске
Забиться в лихорадке очищенья.
Затем иная мука суждена:
Его погладит в самом адском такте
Марго Ивановна — Ю-Чанова жена —
Добротная на ощупь и характер.
На жаркий стол она, кряхтя, склонила
Бредущие горой за утюгом
Огромные закатные светила
Грудей, испытанных восторгом и трудом.
Жена отрадна и раскос сынишка,
На перекрестке рас сосущий леденец.
Белье бело, клопы крупны не слишком,
Пора уснуть Ю-Чану, наконец,
Он спит. И созданная белизна,
Рожденная трудом из липкой тины,
К нему исходит в белоснежных снах:
В обличьях детства, риса и жасмина.
И снег белья кружит из темноты.
Из темноты нестирано угарной.
И первый свет, как образ Чистоты,
Пергамент лба целует благодарно.

Измена (Infidelity) by Olga Berggolts

Not waking, in my dreams, my dreams,
I saw you – you were alive.
You had endured all and come to me,
crossing the last frontier.

You were earth already, ashes, you
were my glory, my punishment.
But, in spite of life,
of death,
you rose from your thousand
graves.

You passed through war hell, concentration camp,
through furnace, drunk with the flames,
through your own death you entered Leningrad,
came out of love for me.

You found my house, but I live now
not in our house, in another;
and a new husband shares my waking hours…
O how could you not have known?!

Like the master of the house, proudly you crossed
the threshold, stood there lovingly.
And I murmured: ‘God will rise again’,
and made the sign of the cross
over you – the unbeliever’s cross, the cross
of despair, as black as pitch,
the cross that was made over each house
that winter, that winter in which

you died.
O my friend, forgive me
as I sigh. How long have I not known
where waking ends and the dream begins…

by Ольга Фёдоровна Берггольц (Olga Fyodorovna Berggolts)
a.k.a. Olga Fyodorovna Bergholz
(1946)
translated by Daniel Weissbort

Recited by Veronika Nesterov with some additional music

Измена

Не наяву, но во сне, во сне
я увидала тебя: ты жив.
Ты вынес все и пришел ко мне,
пересек последние рубежи.

Ты был землею уже, золой,
славой и казнью моею был.
Но, смерти назло
и жизни назло,
ты встал из тысяч
своих могил.

Ты шел сквозь битвы, Майданек, ад,
сквозь печи, пьяные от огня,
сквозь смерть свою ты шел в Ленинград,
дошел, потому что любил меня.

Ты дом нашел мой, а я живу
не в нашем доме теперь, в другом,
и новый муж у меня — наяву…
О, как ты не догадался о нем?!

Хозяином переступил порог,
гордым и радостным встал, любя.
А я бормочу: «Да воскреснет бог»,
а я закрещиваю тебя
крестом неверующих, крестом
отчаянья, где не видать ни зги,
которым закрещен был каждый дом
в ту зиму, в ту зиму, как ты погиб…

О друг,— прости мне невольный стон:
давно не знаю, где явь, где сон …

Импровизация (Improvisation) by Boris Pasternak

I was feeding the flock of keys out of my hand
To a beating of wings. I was standing on tiptoe,
My hands reaching out to the splashing and screaming
My sleeve was rolled up and night brushed my elbow.

And it was pitch dark. And there was a pond
And waves. And the love-birds and suchlike, it seemed,
Would surely be pecked to death long before those
Whose black, strident, savage beaks screamed.

And there was a pond. And it was pitch dark
Except where the lilies like torches were flickering.
A wave was gnawing the planks of the dinghy.
And birds at my elbow were snapping and bickering.

Night rattled like phlegm in the throats of the ponds.
The fledgling had yet to be fed, it seemed,
And the females would peck it to death long before
The roulades would cease in the gullet that screamed.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1916)
from Поверх барьеров
(Over The Barriers)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

A reading of the poem in Russian.

Beneath is the original, Russian Cyrillic, version of the poem.

Импровизация  
 
Я клавишей стаю кормил с руки
Под хлопанье крыльев, плеск и клекот.
Я вытянул руки, я встал на носки,
Рукав завернулся, ночь терлась о локоть.

И было темно. И это был пруд
И волны.- И птиц из породы люблю вас,
Казалось, скорей умертвят, чем умрут
Крикливые, черные, крепкие клювы.

И это был пруд. И было темно.
Пылали кубышки с полуночным дегтем.
И было волною обглодано дно
У лодки. И грызлися птицы у локтя.

И ночь полоскалась в гортанях запруд,
Казалось, покамест птенец не накормлен,
И самки скорей умертвят, чем умрут
Рулады в крикливом, искривленном горле.  

Урал впервые (The Urals For The First Time) by Boris Pasternak

Without obstetrician, in darkness, unconscious,
The towering Urals, hands clawing the night,
Yelled out in travail and fainted away,
Blinded by agony, gave birth to light.

In thunder, the masses and bronzes of mountains,
Accidentally struck, avalanched down.
The train went on panting. And somewhere this made
The spectres of firs go shyly to ground.

The smoke-haze at dawn was a soporific,
Administered slyly – to mountain and factory -
By men lighting stoves, by sulphurous dragons,
As thieves slip a drug in a traveller's tea.

They came in to fire. From the crimson horizon
Down to their timberline destination,
Asians were skiing with crowns for the pines.
And summoning them to their coronation.

And the pines, shaggy monarchs, in order of precedence
Rising up, stepped out, row on row
On to a damascened cloth-of-gold carpet
Spread with the orange of crusted snow.


by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1916)
from Поверх барьеров (Over The Barriers)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France
The poem recited by Anastasiya Dikovistkaya in Russian.

Below is the original, Russian Cyrillic, version of the poem.

Урал впервые

Без родовспомогательницы, во мраке, без памяти,
На ночь натыкаясь руками, Урала
Твердыня орала и, падая замертво,
В мученьях ослепшая, утро рожала.

Гремя опрокидывались нечаянно задетые
Громады и бронзы массивов каких-то.
Пыхтел пассажирский. И, где-то от этого
Шарахаясь, падали призраки пихты.

Коптивший рассвет был снотворным. Не иначе:
Он им был подсыпан - заводам и горам -
Лесным печником, злоязычным Горынычем,
Как опий попутчику опытным вором.

Очнулись в огне. С горизонта пунцового
На лыжах спускались к лесам азиатцы,
Лизали подошвы и соснам подсовывали
Короны и звали на царство венчаться.

И сосны, повстав и храня иерархию
Мохнатых монархов, вступали
На устланный наста оранжевым бархатом
Покров из камки и сусали.

Надежда (Hope) by Olga Berggolts

I still believe that I return to life,
shall wake early one day, at dawn,
in the light, early hours, in the transparent dew,
where the branches are studded with drops,
and a small lake stands in the sundew's bowl,
reflecting the swift flight of the clouds.
And, inclining my young face, I shall gaze
at a drop of water as on a miracle,
and tears of rapture will flow, and the world,
the whole world will be seen, wide and far.

I still believe that early one day,
in the sparkling cold, it will again
return to me in my poverty,
in my joyless wisdom,
not daring to rejoice and to sob...


by Ольга Фёдоровна Берггольц
(Olga Fyodorovna Berggolts)
a.k.a. Olga Fyodorovna Bergholz
(1949)
translated by Daniel Weissbort

Additional information: A Soviet poet, writer, playwright and journalist. She is most famous for her work on the Leningrad radio during the city’s blockade, when she became the symbol of the city’s strength and determination.

The poem’s original Russian version, Надежда, read by Л.Толмачёва (L. Tolmacheva)

Beneath is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.

Надежда

Я все еще верю, что к жизни вернусь,-
однажды на раннем рассвете проснусь.
На раннем, на легком, в прозрачной росе,
где каплями ветки унизаны все,
и в чаше росянки стоит озерко,
и в нем отражается бег облаков,
и я, наклоняясь лицом молодым,
смотрю как на чудо на каплю воды,
и слезы восторга бегут, и легко,
и виден весь мир далеко-далеко...
Я все еще верю, что раннее утро,
знобя и сверкая, вернется опять
ко мне - обнищавшей,
                  безрадостно-мудрой,
не смеющей радоваться и рыдать...