The Jolt by Anna Prismanova

The jolt must come from far away:

the start of bread is in the grain.

A stream, although still underground,

aspires to reflect the sky.


A future Sunday’s distant light

reaches us early in the week.

The jolt must come from far away

to trigger earthquakes in the heart.


A shoulder alien to me

controls the movement of my hand.

In order to acquire such strength,

the jolt must come from far away.


by Анна Семёновна Присманова (Anna Semyonovna Prismanova)

a.k.a. Анна Симоновна Присман (Anna Simonovna Prisman)

(late 1930s or early 1940s)

translated by Boris Dralyuk


Fun fact: She is considered comparable to her contemporary, the American poet, Louise Bogan.


Муза (Muse) by Anna Akhmatova

I feel my life hang by a hair

as I wait at night for the Muse;

youth, freedom, fame melt into air

as my guest appears with her flute.


She enters, tosses back her shawl;

her half-closed eyes let nothing pass.

‘So it was you who sang of Hell

to Dante?’ ‘Yes,’ she says, ‘it was.’


by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)


from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book) era

translation by Robert Chandler

Fun Fact: The exact muse from Greek mythology referred to here is Euterpe who in late Classical times was named muse of lyric poetry and was often depicted holding a flute. The Dante referred to here is of course Dante Alighieri and his epic poem the Divine Comedy, in particular the Inferno section. Calliope was usually considered the muse of epic poetry but of course Akhmatova herself wrote lyric poetry thus explaining why she, to her surprise, encounters Euterpe and not Calliope.

I’m Nothing To You, I Mean Zero by Maria Petrovykh

I’m nothing to you, I mean zero.

I know, there’s nothing more to say.

And yet I love you still more dearly,

ecstatically and without mercy,

and like a drunk, I stumble, reel,

and loiter in a lightless alley,

insisting that I love you still –

no mercy, and ecstatically.


by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)


translated by Boris Dralyuk

Spell [Extract] by Maria Petrovykh

I won’t give you up to death.

I will stand before her.

With my heart

I will shield

your heart.

If you see me


it is not from pain;

it is from joy

that you are invunerable.


by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)


translated by Robert Chandler

Words Lying Empty, Without Breathing by Maria Petrovykh

Words lying empty, without breathing –

that don’t know why they exist at all.

Words with no goal, words with no meaning,

that shelter no one from the cold

and haven’t fed a single soul.

Words of impotence – of the weak!

Words that don’t dare, too shy to speak.

They give no heat, they shed no light,

but, with an orphan’s grief, go mute,

not knowing they are mutilated.


by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)


translated by Boris Dralyuk

Love Me. I Am Pitch Black by Maria Petrovykh

Love me. I am pitch black,

sinful, blind, confused.

But if not you, then who else

is going to love me? Face

to face, and fate to fate.

See how stars shine bright

in the dark sky. Love me

simply, simply, as day

loves night and night loves day.

You have no choice. I am

pure night, and you – pure light.


by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)


translated by Robert Chandler

A complete rendition though this version uses shorter, irregular, lines in its translation.

The Line Of The Horizon by Maria Petrovykh

It’s just how it is, it’s the way of the ages;

years pass away, and friends pass away

and you suddenly realize the world is changing

and the fire of your heart is fading away.


Once the horizon was sharp as a knife,

a clear frontier between different states,

but now low mist hangs over the earth –

and this gentle cloud is the mercy of fate.


Age, I suppose, with its losses and fears,

age that silently saps our strength,

has blurred with the mist of unspilt tears

that clear divide between life and death.


So many you loved are no longer with you,

yet you chat to them as you always did.

You forget they’re no longer among the living;

that clear frontier is now shrouded in mist.


The same sort of woodland, same sort of field –

you probably won’t even notice the day

you chance to wander across the border,

chatting to someone long passed away.


by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)


translated by Robert Chandler