Мужья со своими делами, нервами… (‘Always busy, plagued by anxiety…’ a.k.a ‘Husbands with their doings and nerves…’) by Boris Slutsky

Always busy, plagued by anxiety,

guilt-ridden, duty to be done –

husbands should be the first to die;

never the ones who’re left alone.

.

Wives should grow old slowly. Aim

for the four-score-and-twenty mark, even;

not every day, but from time to time

remembering their men.

.

You should not have left the way

you did. That was wrong.

With a kind smile on your face

you should have lived on,

you should have lived long.

.

Until their hair turns white –

for wives, that’s the way to wait,

.

getting on with things around the home,

breaking the odd heart if they can,

and even (well, where’s the harm?)

toasting the memory of their old man.

.

.

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий

(Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(1977)

translated by G. S. Smith

.

Here is an alternative translation of this poem by Gerald S. Smith.

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

.

Мужья со своими делами, нервами…

Мужья со своими делами, нервами,
чувством долга, чувством вины
должны умирать первыми, первыми,
вторыми они умирать не должны.

Жены должны стареть понемногу,
хоть до столетних дойдя рубежей,
изредка, впрочем, снова и снова
вспоминая своих мужей.

Ты не должна была делать так,
как ты сделала. Ты не должна была.
С доброй улыбкою на устах
жить ты должна была,
долго должна была.

Жить до старости, до седины
жены обязаны и должны,

делая в доме свои дела,
чьи-нибудь сердца разбивая
или даже — была не была —
чарку — в память мужей — распивая.

The Fridge by Boris Slutsky

What a sturdy square block of a thing you are!
Such a fine, white, self-satisfied creature!
 
Sometimes you stand dumb as a boulder
or drop off into a cold sleep, or
Sometimes your metal belly rumbles, but there's
no point in working out your meaning.
 
Of all machines the fridge must be the
most good-natured; hog-fat and
roomy as a snow-drift, it
must be said to hold the purest heart.
 
Firmly under human domination
even the cold that creeps out from it
is only a small cold blast, too small
to threaten any freeze-up of our future.
 
If ever robots rise in revolution,
if ever they attack the human race,
at least you refrigerators won't be
amongst the ones to break the peace.
 
For you are the house-dog of machinery
a faithful and contented animal;
so give your door a docile wag for Man,
your living friend, and show him how you smile.
 

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий
(Boris Abramovich Slutsky)
(19??)
translated by Elaine Feinstein