О.Л.С. (F.L.F.) by Daniil Kharms

The forest sways its tippy-tops,

people walk around with pots,

catching water from air with them.

In the sea, water bends.

But fire will not bend to the very end.

Fire loves airy freedom.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

(21/22 August 1933)

translated by Matvei Yankelevich


Fun facts: The original Russian title, О.Л.С., is an acronym of three of the last lines four words – огонь любит воздушную свободу (Ogon’ Liubit vozdushnuyu Svobodu) i.e. Fire Loves airy Freedom.

‘A Man Once Walked Out Of His House’ by Daniil Kharms

A man once walked out of his house

with a walking stick and a sack,

and on he went,

and on he went:

he never did turn back.

 

He walked as far as he could see:

he saw what lay ahead.

He never drank,

he never slept,

nor slept nor drank nor ate.

 

Then once upon a morning

he entered a dark wood

and on that day,

and on that day

he disappeared for good.

 

If anywhere by any chance

you meet him in his travels,

then hurry please

then hurry please,

then hurry please and tell us.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

(1937)

translated by Matvei Yankelevich and Eugene Ostashevsky

The Four-Legged Crow by Daniil Kharms

There once lived a four-legged crow. Properly speaking, it had five legs, but this isn’t worth talking about.

So once this four-legged crow brought itself some coffee and thought, “OK, so I bought coffee, what I am supposed to do with it now?”

Just then, unfortunately, a fox was running by. The fox saw the crow and shouted. “Hey,” it shouted, “you crow!”

And the crow shouted back: “Crow yourself!”

And the fox shouted to the crow: “You’re a pig, crow, that’s what you are!”

The Crow was so insulted it scattered the coffee. And the fox ran off. And the crow climbed down and went on its four, or to be more precise, five legs to its lousy house.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

(13 February, 1938)

translated by Eugene Ostashevsky

Blue Notebook, No. 10 by Daniil Kharms

There once lived a red-headed man who had no eyes or ears.

He also had no hair, so he was only in a manner of speaking called red-haired.

He couldn’t speak, since he had no mouth. He had no nose either.

He didn’t even have arms or legs. And he had no stomach, and he had no back, and he had no spine, and he had no innards at all. He had nothing at all! So there’s no knowing who we are talking about.

We’d better not talk about him any more.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

(1937)

translated by Robert Chandler

A Fairy Tale by Daniil Kharms

There once was a man  by the name of Semyonov.

And Semyonov went out for a walk and lost his handkerchief.

And Semyonov started looking for a handkerchief and lost his hat.

And looking for a hat, he lost his jacket.

He began to look for a jacket and lost his boots.

– Yes – said Semyonov – this is a loss – I shall go home.

Semyonov began walking home – and he got lost.

– No – said Semyonov – I’d rather sit. And he sat down.

And he sat on a stone, and fell asleep.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivanovich Kharms)

a.k.a. Даниил Иванович Ювачёв (Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov)

(1933)

translated by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky


Personally I would have gone with ‘… and lost consciousness’ for the last line, instead of ‘… and fell sleep’ in order to maintain the structural repition for humourous effect even if this translation is a more accurate one.

Old Women Falling Out by Daniil Kharms

Excessive curiosity made one old woman fall out of a window, plummet to the ground and break into pieces.

Another old woman poked her head out of a window to look at the one who had broken into pieces, but excessive curiosity made her too fall out of the window, plummet to the ground and break into pieces.

Then a third old woman fell out of a window, then a fourth, then a fifth.

When a sixth old woman fell out, I felt I’d had enough of watching them and went off to the Maltsev Market where I heard that a blind man had been given a knitted shawl.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Ivánovich Kharms)

(1937)

translated by Robert Chandler

Here’s The Rain Crashing Down by Daniil Kharms

Here’s the rain crashing down,

time has stopped.

The clocks go on helplessly knocking.

Grow, grass, you don’t need time.

Speak, Holy Spirit, you don’t need words.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Kharms)

(1937)

translated by Robert Chandler

This Is How Hunger Begins by Daniil Kharms

This is how hunger begins:

first you wake in good cheer,

then weakness begins,

and then boredom,

and then comes the losss

of the power of swift reason

and then comes calm –

and then the horror.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Kharms)

(1937)

translated by Robert Chandler

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

      And the mome raths outgrabe.

 

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

      The frumious Bandersnatch!”

 

He took his vorpal sword in hand;

      Long time the manxome foe he sought—

So rested he by the Tumtum tree

      And stood awhile in thought.

 

And, as in uffish thought he stood,

      The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

      And burbled as it came!

 

One, two! One, two! And through and through

      The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

      He went galumphing back.

 

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

      Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

      He chortled in his joy.

 

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

      And the mome raths outgrabe.

 

by Lewis Carroll (1832 – 1898)

Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen

I love chocolate cake.
And when I was a boy
I loved it even more.

Sometimes we used to have it for tea
and Mum used to say,
‘If there’s any left over
you can have it to take to school
tomorrow to have at playtime.’
And the next day I would take it to school
wrapped up in tin foil
open it up at playtime
and sit in the corner of the playground
eating it,
you know how the icing on top
is all shiny and it cracks as you
bite into it,
and there’s that other kind of icing in
the middle
and it sticks to your hands and you
can lick your fingers
and lick your lips
oh it’s lovely.
yeah.

Anyway,
once we had this chocolate cake for tea
and later I went to bed
but while I was in bed
I found myself waking up
licking my lips
and smiling.
I woke up proper.
‘The chocolate cake.’
It was the first thing
1 thought of.

I could almost see it
so I thought,
what if I go downstairs
and have a little nibble, yeah?

It was all dark
everyone was in bed
so it must have been really late
but I got out of bed,
crept out of the door

there’s always a creaky floorboard, isn’t there?

Past Mum and Dad’s room,
careful not to tread on bits of broken toys
or bits of Lego
you know what it’s like treading on Lego
with your bare feet,

yowwww
shhhhhhh

downstairs
into the kitchen
open the cupboard
and there it is
all shining.

So I take it out of the cupboard
put it on the table
and I see that
there’s a few crumbs lying about on the plate,
so I lick my finger and run my finger all over the crumbs
scooping them up
and put them into my mouth.

oooooooommmmmmmmm

nice.

Then
I look again
and on one side where it’s been cut,
it’s all crumbly.

So I take a knife
I think I’ll just tidy that up a bit,
cut off the crumbly bits
scoop them all up
and into the mouth

oooooommm mmmm
nice.

Look at the cake again.

That looks a bit funny now,
one side doesn’t match the other
I’ll just even it up a bit, eh?

Take the knife
and slice.
This time the knife makes a little cracky noise
as it goes through that hard icing on top.

A whole slice this time,

into the mouth.

Oh the icing on top
and the icing in the middle
ohhhhhh oooo mmmmmm.

But now
I can’t stop myself
Knife –
1 just take any old slice at it
and I’ve got this great big chunk
and I’m cramming it in
what a greedy pig
but it’s so nice,

and there’s another
and another and I’m squealing and I’m smacking my lips
and I’m stuffing myself with it
and
before I know
I’ve eaten the lot.
The whole lot.

I look at the plate.
It’s all gone.

Oh no
they’re bound to notice, aren’t they,
a whole chocolate cake doesn’t just disappear
does it?

What shall 1 do?

I know. I’ll wash the plate up,
and the knife

and put them away and maybe no one
will notice, eh?

So I do that
and creep creep creep
back to bed
into bed
doze off
licking my lips
with a lovely feeling in my belly.
Mmmmrnmmmmm.

In the morning I get up,
downstairs,
have breakfast,
Mum’s saying,
‘Have you got your dinner money?’
and I say,
‘Yes.’
‘And don’t forget to take some chocolate cake with you.’
I stopped breathing.

‘What’s the matter,’ she says,
‘you normally jump at chocolate cake?’

I’m still not breathing,
and she’s looking at me very closely now.

She’s looking at me just below my mouth.
‘What’s that?’ she says.
‘What’s what?’ I say.

‘What’s that there?’
‘Where?’
‘There,’ she says, pointing at my chin.
‘I don’t know,’ I say.
‘It looks like chocolate,’ she says.
‘It’s not chocolate is it?’
No answer.
‘Is it?’
‘I don’t know.’
She goes to the cupboard
looks in, up, top, middle, bottom,
turns back to me.
‘It’s gone.
It’s gone.
You haven’t eaten it, have you?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You don’t know. You don’t know if you’ve eaten a whole
chocolate cake or not?
When? When did you eat it?’

So I told her,

and she said
well what could she say?
‘That’s the last time I give you any cake to take
to school.
Now go. Get out
no wait
not before you’ve washed your dirty sticky face.’
I went upstairs
looked in the mirror
and there it was,
just below my mouth,
a chocolate smudge.
The give-away.
Maybe she’ll forget about it by next week.

 

by Michael Rosen