Мы только женщины – и, так сказать, “увы!”… (We’re Only Women) by Novella Matveyeva

We’re only women – alas, as it were.

But why alas? Time to define the reason.

‘Wine and women’ – so you say.

But we don’t talk of ‘chocolates and men’!

.

We distinguish you from buns or toffee

We somehow feel that people are not hams,

Though (to hear you) we only differ

In never having a head upon our shoulders.

.

‘Wine and women’? Let’s follow it from there.

Woman, take a cookbook,

Say ‘I love you better than jugged hare,

Than strawberry jam! Than pig’s feet! Than fish pie!’

.

Well, how do you like my affection?

You’re a person, not a piece of cheese?

– And I?

.

.

By Новелла Николаевна Матвеева

(Novella Nikolayevna Matveyeva)

(1965)

Translated by J. R. Rowland

.

Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.

.

Мы только женщины – и, так сказать, “увы!”…

Мы только женщины – и, так сказать, “увы!”

А почему “увы”? Пора задеть причины.

“Вино и женщины” – так говорите вы,

Но мы не говорим: “Конфеты и мужчины”.

.

Мы отличаем вас от груши, от халвы,

Мы как-то чувствуем, что люди – не ветчины,

Хотя, послушать вас, лишь тем и отличимы,

Что сроду на плечах не носим головы.

.

“Вино и женщины”? – Последуем отсель.

О женщина, возьми поваренную книжку,

Скажи: “Люблю тебя, как ягодный кисель,

Как рыбью голову! Как заячью лодыжку!

.

По сердцу ли тебе привязанность моя?

Ах, да! Ты не еда! Ты – человек! А я?”

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.

Winged God by R. S. Thomas

All men. Or shall we say,
not chauvinistic, all
people, it is all
people? Beasts manure
the ground, nibble to
promote growth; but man,
the consumer, swallows
like the god of mythology
his own kind. Beasts walk
among birds and never
do the birds scare; but the human,
that alienating shadow
with the Bible under the one
arm and under the other
the bomb, as often
drawn as he is repelled
by the stranger waiting for him
in the mirror – how
can he return home
when his gaze forages
beyond the stars? Pity him,
then, this winged god, rupturer
of gravity's control
accelerating on and
outward in the afterglow
of a receding laughter?

by R. S. Thomas
from No Truce With The Furies (1995)

‘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

 

Neighbours by Mike Jenkins

Yesterday, the children made the street

into a stadium; their cat

a docile audience. As they cheered

a score it seemed there was a camera

in the sky to record their elation.

Men polished cars, like soldiers

getting ready for an inspection.

Women, of course, were banished

from daylight: the smells of roasts merging

like the car-wash channels joining.

Today, two horses trespass over boundaries

of content; barebacked, as if they’d just

thrown off the saddle of some film.

They hoof up lawns – brown patches like tea-stains.

A woman in an apron tries to sweep away

the stallion, his penis wagging back at her broom.

I swop smiles with an Indian woman, door to door.

These neighbours bring us out from our burrows –

the stampede of light watering our eyes.

 

By Mike Jenkins

from Empire of Smoke

At The Memorial by Emyr Humphreys

We remember wartime

Wartime

The leaves were red

Columns

Backs

Silences

Were broken

And skies were tight.

 

Singers in uniform

Were frozen

Stony men

Were children

Nights

Flesh

Steel

Cracked burst buckled

Nothing was

The Target

Nowhere

The Retreat.

 

We managed

The living the key workers

The throats of loyal trumpets

The minds of washed out cockpits

Our prayers were pistons

We managed

Our leaders in bunkers

 

As indestructable as rats

The tongues and necks

Of true survivors

 

In one cold wood

A headless boy

Still walks

A thin man prays

In his own blood

The dead

On every side

Wait to be counted

 

Catalogues

Printed

In old blood

 

Old wars

Are not doors

They are the walls

Of empty tombs

Bowed to

At stated times

By true survivors

Only dreams

Have hinges.

 

by Emyr Humphreys


Fun fact: He registered as a conscientious objector in the Second World War, working on a farm, and later doing relief work in Egypt and Italy. After the war he worked as a teacher, as a radio producer at the BBC and later became a lecturer in drama at Bangor University.

Hireling by R. S. Thomas

Cars pass him by; he’ll never own one.

Men won’t believe in him for this.

Let them come into the hills

And meet him wandering a road,

Fenced with rain, as I have now;

The wind feathering his hair;

The sky’s ruins, gutted with fire

Of the late sun, smouldering still.

 

Nothing is his, neither the land

Nor the land’s flocks. Hired to live

On hills too lonely, sharing his hearth

With cats and hens, he has lost all

Property but the grey ice

Of a face splintered by life’s stone.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Tares (1961)

The Chapel by R. S. Thomas

A little aside from the main road,

becalmed in a last-century greyness,

there is the chapel, ugly, without the appeal

to the tourist to stop his car

and visit it. The traffic goes by,

and the river goes by, and quick shadows

of clouds, too, and the chapel settles

a little deeper into the grass.

 

But here once on an evening like this,

in the darkness that was about

his hearers, a preacher caught fire

and burned steadily before them

with a strange light, so that they saw

the spendour of the barren mountains

about them and sang their amens

fiercely, narrow but saved

in a way that men are not now.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)

Bloody Men by Wendy Cope

Bloody men are bloody buses –

You wait for about a year

And as soon as one approaches your stop

Two or three others appear.

 

You look at them flashing their indicators,

Offering you a ride.

You’re trying to read the destinations,

You haven’t much time to decide.

 

If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.

Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze

While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by

And the minutes, the hours, the days.

 

by Wendy Cope