‘June Would Be Clammy, January Crisp’ by Boris Slutsky

June would be clammy, January crisp;

and concrete solid, sand unstable.

For there was order. Real order.

 

People got up and went to work.

And then they watched The Happy Fellas

at cinemas. For there was order.

 

In pedigrees and in parades,

political police, and apparatus,

even in parodies – there was order.

 

People made fun, and were afraid,

only of those they were supposed to,

for there was order, real order.

 

An order of the bent and bashed.

In hours, in minutes, and in seconds,

in years as well, there was real order.

 

It would have gone on without end,

but then a certain person fell,

and all this order went to hell.

 

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(early 1960s)

translated by G. S. Smith


Fun facts: Obviously the ‘certain person’ was Stalin and his era of terror where indeed there was order, compared to the era of thaw, but I was surprised to find actually ‘The Happy Fellas’ actually does exist! It is the 1934 film Веселые ребята a.k.a. ‘Jolly Fellows’ or ‘Funny Boys’ depending on how you choose to translate the title.

Jolly Fellows (Russian: Весёлые ребята Vesyolye rebyata), also translated as Happy-Go-Lucky Guys, Moscow Laughs and Jazz Comedy, is a 1934 Soviet musical film, directed by Grigori Aleksandrov and starring his wife Lyubov Orlova, a gifted singer and the first recognized star of Soviet cinema.

The script was written by Aleksandrov, Vladimir Mass, and Nikolai Erdman (whose father briefly appears on screen as a German music teacher). It features several songs which instantly became classics across the Soviet Union. The most famous song — “Kak mnogo devushek khoroshikh” (Such a lot of nice girls) — enjoyed international fame, covered as “Serdtse” (Heart) by Pyotr Leshchenko. Music was by Isaak Dunayevsky, the lyrics were written by the Soviet poet Vasily Lebedev-Kumach.

Both Orlova and her co-star, the jazz singer and comic actor Leonid Utyosov, were propelled to stardom after this movie.

Slutsky, of course, is mocking how the film is sacchrine, state sanctioned, sanitised humorous entertainment with no challenging elements or anything that might make the audience think about their social hardships they are living through during Stalin’s era of non-conforming people being made to ‘disappear’ for speaking or acting out, gulags and starvation. Everything is fine citizen, watch the film and feel good about life… everything is in order. No one deviates, no one transgresses, no one thinks or acts differently. There is order – or else!

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All Rules Are Incorrect by Boris Slutsky

All rules are incorrect,

all laws remain perverse,

until they’re firmly set

in well wrought lines of verse.

 

An age or era will

be merely a stretch of time

without a meaning until

it’s glorified in rhyme.

 

Until the poet’s ‘Yes!’,

entrusted by his pen

to print, award success

to this or that – till then

 

the jury will be out,

the verdict still in doubt.

 

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(early 1960s)

translated by Stephen Capus

I Had A Bird In My Hand by Boris Slutsky

I had a bird in my hand

but my bird has flown.

I held a bird in my hand

but am now all alone.

 

My small bird has left me

full of anger and rage;

my blue bird has left me

alone in a cage.

 

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(early 1977)

translated by Robert Chandler

All Rules Are Incorrect by Boris Slutsky

All rules are incorrect,

all laws remain perverse,

until they’re firmly set

in well-wrought lines of verse.

 

An age or era will

be merely a stretch of time

without a meaning until

it’s glorified in rhyme.

 

Until the poet’s ‘Yes!’,

entrusted by his pen

to print, awards success

to this or that – till then

 

the jury will be out,

the verdict still in doubt.

 

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(early 1960s)

translated by Stephen Campus

You Can Never Go Home Again

Going home is a concept most first associate with the trek back to their parent’s house when leaving school for the day.

Home is where children go.
Where you feel safe.
A secure sanctuary and endless cornucopia.
Adults have no such place.
You can never go home again.

The place where they live they pay for, work for, are enslaved to. The food they eat they go buy, cook, serve, wash the dishes after. The garden, if they have one, they maintain through rain and shine.

To children all things are infinite by default but adults know, just know, things are finite and so they fear to waste it. And in fearing to waste it they do not do anything and so all things are fear and there is no safety haven.

An adult may try to surpass the limitations of their fears but ultimately most are satisfied to wallow in it. Socrates, via Plato, spoke of people being satisfied to watch the flicking shadows on the cave wall instead of leaving the cave and becoming enlightened. Fear served the small mammals we evolved from well but now it means we are all vagabonds even in our own houses.

But of course this can be counterintuitive if we expose children to this realisation to early. Children considered adults to omniscient and omnipotent authority figures but perhaps no more. In aiding children to challenge authority of thought society also taught them that there are limits. A teacher only knows what is on the curriculum. A police officer can be out run. Anyone who is not in a leadership role failed at life. Everything has limits they learned and so they came to fear aging and the limitations they now knew with age came restrictions. They knew their rights and those they could assert to control their superiors.

Thus no one would be in control. Without that there could be no direction. Without something to resist and rebel against there is nothing to stand for and people just lie down without motivation. Without this there could be no drive to surpass limitations and so everything becomes a stagnant exclamation of futility where people could have their say but have nothing worth hearing. To move in any direction carried risk and people became satisfied to accept their lot in life and with just accepting and making do they could never have a home, just somewhere they lived for the moment while aspiring to the greener grass of someone else’s life which they were unwilling to work towards but expected to be able to achieve immediately if they wanted it. Just like a child living in their parent’s home.

You may die in a home accident. You may die in a road accident. You may die in an industrial accident. You may die of old age.

You can never relax. Never feel safe. Never rest. Never relax. Never feel safe and be unburdened by life. Even if you do for a moment you always fear it being taken away and thus enslave yourself only further.

You can make a home for others but you yourself will never know it again.

You can never go home again once you know the cost of your life to others.


Rambling on a blog called Rambling At The Bridgehead… no editing really. Just ashort piece that is ficitonal or real or a polemic on a loss of innocence and the neverending ‘destabilisation’ we experience currently in day to day life…

There is nowhere to feel happy. you carry the burden with you where ever you go. In the end you are stuck with yourself and all the burdens you carry. Go on holiday, flee to a foreign country. It’ll be there when you remember it.

You are your own prison.

Tomorrow: ‘The Poppies Do Not Weep For You’