‘What did they do’ by Boris Slutsky

What did they do

with the relatives of Christ?

What did they do with them?

No written source

will tell you a damned thing –

nothing but crossings out, emptiness.

What the hell did they do with them?

 

What did they do

with those simple people,

simple craftsmen, men who worked on the land?

Were all marched off to some nearby wilderness,

lined up and machine-gunned?

 

Whatever happened then, two centuries later

there were no demands for compensation or calls for revenge?

Total posthumous rehabilitation of Jesus

led to no rehabilitation of kin.

 

And now flowers are growing from the relatives of Christ.

Below them lie depths, above them rise heights,

yet world history had found no place

for those relatives of Christ.

 

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(1977)

translated by Robert Chandler

 

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‘I Began To Grow Old’ by Alexander Mezhirov

I began to grow old

when I turned forty-four,

and at the eating place on the corner,

I was already taken

for a lonely retiree,

forgotten

by every soul

on earth,

forsaken by his children

and ignored by the rest of his kin.

 

Well, this is the law of life, isn’t it?

Yet I confess

that at first,

Whenever I entered the place

and looked around

for a vacant table,

this circumstance depressed me.

But later

I found in it

the emergency exit in the building called life.

 

Yes, I submerged

into the muffled hubbub of voices

of that place

in almost a cellar,

where my ailing spirit

was strangely healed,

as I carried a pea soup

on a quavering piece of plastic,

a spoon, a fork and a knife,

still dripping,

and a hunk of bread on a plate –

also wet.

 

I came to love

those

crudely panelled

walls,

that line to the counter,

the trays

and the meagre menu card.

‘Blessed are,’

I muttered,

‘Blessed are,

Blessed are,

Blessed are…’

That blessed squalor

I shall never betray.

 

I came to love

the defeat at the game of life,

and the faded traces

of decorations

on old uniforms

and I could now enter

the world of shadows just like another shadow,

without farewell salvos,

solemn faces,

or fuss.

 

by Александр Петрович Межиров (Alexander Petrovich Mezhirov)

a.k.a. Alexandre Petrovitch Mejirov

(1973)

translated by Lev Navrozov