There’s a courtyard in our building,
that’s where you’ll find the back door,
and behind it lives a Black Cat –
ensconced here like some lord.
There’s a smirk behind his whiskers,
darkness shields him like a wall,
and this Black Cat remains quiet
while all others caterwaul.
He keeps smirking in his whiskers,
hasn’t caught a mouse of late,
catches us on our loose lips,
on a bit of tempting bait.
He does not request or order –
when his yellow eye burns bright,
every one of us forks over,
thanking him with all our might.
He won’t meow and he won’t purr –
he just gorges, drinks and gloats.
And he paws at dirty floorboards
like he’s clawing at our throats.
This is why the place we live in
is so dark and dreary still,
we should really hang a light bulb –
but can’t seem to foot the bill.
by ბულატ ოკუჯავა
a.k.a. Булат Шалвович Окуджава
a.k.a. Bulat Shalvovich Okudzhava
(1957 – 1959)
translated by Maria Bloshteyn
Here is the song, often believed to be about Stalin, being performed by Bulat Okudzhava:
Bulat Shalvovich Okudzhava (Russian: Булат Шалвович Окуджава; Georgian: ბულატ ოკუჯავა) (May 9, 1924 – June 12, 1997) was a Soviet and Russian poet, writer, musician, novelist, and singer-songwriter of Georgian-Armenian ancestry. He was one of the founders of the Soviet genre called “author song” (авторская песня), or “guitar song”, and the author of about 200 songs, set to his own poetry. His songs are a mixture of Russian poetic and folksong traditions and the French chansonnier style represented by such contemporaries of Okudzhava as Georges Brassens. Though his songs were never overtly political (in contrast to those of some of his fellow Soviet bards), the freshness and independence of Okudzhava‘s artistic voice presented a subtle challenge to Soviet cultural authorities, who were thus hesitant for many years to give official recognition to Okudzhava.