‘На что мне ночи, полные вина…’ (‘Of What Use To Me…’) by Nina Grachova

Of what use to me are the nights full of wine,
and stars over the rusty rowan bush?
As though by barded wire, I’m fenced in
by the huge Russian Empire.
And among her holy fools and dunces
and among her serfs – I suffer for her.
It is not the whips’ and cannons’ power I revere,
but the anguish of the land.
And this pain, this bliss
which is called my motherland,
grain by grain I put down in my notebook,
so that later I won’t reproach myself
with not having learned by heart
this cart-horse tongue, these dialects
that hide wolfish sadness,
drunken delirium, and human torment…

by Нина Владимировна Грачёва
(Nina Vladimirovna Grachova
a.k.a Nina Vladimirovna Grachyova
a.k.a Nina Vladimirovna Grachiova)
from Строфы века (Stanza of the Century)
(1990)
translated by Nina Kossman

На что мне ночи, полные вина…

На что мне ночи, полные вина,
И звёзды над кустом рябины ржавой?
Как проволокой, я обнесена
Российскою огромною державой, –
И средь юродивых её, и средь шутов,
И средь холопов – всё терзаюсь ею,
И не пред властью пушек и кнутов,
А пред тоской земли благоговею.
И эту кару или благодать,
Что называется моей отчизной,
Я по крупице заношу в тетрадь,
Дабы не говорили с укоризной,
Что я не заучила наизусть
Сей ломовой язык, сии наречья,
В которых затаилась волчья грусть,
Хмельной угар и мука человечья…

Additional information: There is little information about her it seems. Boris Dralyuk recently did a post about her covering her poem Шпионка (Spy) about Mata Hari. A list of her poems is available to view on this Russian poetry site if you are able to read Russian.

An interesting thing I noticed is that the ‘Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry’ anthology, compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and printed in 1993, I referenced gives her date of birth as 1971 when the few other source I’ve found give it as 1969. In the anthology’s brief biography of her it states “Grachova was discovered by the editor E. C. Lashkin, a great connoisseur of poetry whose efforts sometime earlier had succeeded in the printing of Bulgakov’s great novel The Master and Margarita. Even at age fifteen it was already clear that Grachova possessed a divine gift. Her poems are uniquely religious, with a faith that incorporates nature, personal feeling, and poetry“.

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A Night Out by Dannie Abse

Friends recommended the new Polish film
at the Academy in Oxford Street.
So we joined the ever melancholy queue
of cinemas. A wind blew faint suggestions
of rain towards us, and an accordion.
Later, uneasy, in the velvet dark
we peered through the cut-out oblong window
at the spotlit drama of our nightmares:
images of Auschwitz almost authentic,
the human obscenity in close-up.
Certainly we could imagine the stench.

Resenting it, we forgot the barbed wire
was but a prop, and could not scratch the eye:
those striped victims merely actors like us.
We saw the Camp orchestra assembled,
we heard the solemn gaiety of Bach,
scored by the loud arrival of an engine,
its impotent cry, and its guttural trucks.
We watched, as we munched milk chocolate,
trustful children, no older than our own,
strolling into the chambers without fuss,
whilst smoke, black and curly, oozed from chimneys.


by Dannie Abse
from A Small Desperation
(1968)

Interesting fact: Dannie Abse was born in Cardiff, Wales, to a Jewish family. He was the younger brother of politician and reformer Leo Abse and the eminent psychoanalyst, Wilfred Abse. Unusually for a middle-class Jewish boy, Dannie Abse attended St Illtyd’s College, a working-class Catholic school in Splott.

The Cool Night Air

Once more spring has passed and it is now summer. A cool breeze drifts past the window.
I think of childhood and how the days of summer did not end back then.
Now, when the light begins to fail, I want to go for a walk in the cool night air.

Where to? I do not know.
Until what time? I do not care.
If I left I would not return. What is there to return to?

People have dreams and make memories in the dark hours. Especially during the summer when the darkness is a soothing comfort not a sign of insensitive death.

As a child you think adults have freedom while you yourself have routines and people to answer to.
You answer to your parents, your teachers, you community.
When you are an adult you still have chains but now they are invisible.

The barbed wire of etiquette twisted around you harming you every time you allow others to treat you as an inferior for decorum’s sake.
The razor blades of financial worries giving you the death of a thousand cuts.
The pressure of self-inflicted moral restraints contorting who you were, are and will be.

Existentialism poses the question asking what exactly is stopping you from dropping everything and walking away. These tethers we bind ourselves with are not real, physical, things. But they are there all the same.
An adult answers to their employer, to their family, to their peers and to the government that cannot see them as anything other than a statistic to be checked off the page.

The night air soothes the skin. Caresses it like a woman placating the injured thinking this tactile moment of amity, invading the solitude of suffering, will ease the tormented and assure their soul.

I will walk away from the lights of mankind’s pointless struggle against the beautiful night but in the end, no matter what direction I walk in, eventually I will return to it.
The only other choice is to blindly walk off a cliff into the awaiting pitch black sea who will claim me for her own. A phone will ring at the chapel down the bottom of the slope and the Samaritans will be told it was too late but they will go home in the end and sleep peacefully.

I cannot go because I will not return. There is nowhere to go. I am ensnared by responsibilities others have foisted on me because of the choices I made and the indecisions I allowed. I am in a gilded cage of my own creation and soon the night will past. I will wait. Wait until it returns once again. The cycle will continue until autumn kills it once more, dressing the floor with its golden red entrails and we bow our heads during the winter songs where the world is washed away to muddied grey and white tones.

The air is stale in here. I can breathe – but only with a heavy heart. I will embrace the night and sleep. I know when I awake the light wll have been victorious over the night and the cycle of maturity will repeat once more.


I have the past few evenings wanted to go for a walk. I have not though. I don’t know where I would go. There is nowhere but to the town with its glittering lights and dirty covered paving. To sit in a bar and drink until the ring of the bell for last orders and the long, lonely, walk back home. Tomorrow is another day – a day like any other day.

Unplanned piece. Flawed but then it fills the blog until the next entry.

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