The Friend by Rimma Kazakova

Quietly my friend is growing old,

and like an ancient itinerant

nun, has a faint gleam about her: an

unnatural light, thrown back as if from a mirror.

.

As she sits her needle stabs at her sewing.

Her apartment is nearby the station, yet

from somewhere else much more remote

comes the far-away hoot of another railway.

.

Her most ordinary things seem sad. A picture

of The Unknown Woman hangs over the bed;

across the tapestry of a German gobelin

a herd of sleek deer are grazing.

.

It’s well-heated in here, I say to her,

and she nods in reply: it is warm, yes.

What is it we have drowned in this room,

that I can feel trickling through our fingers?

.

Can these little muslin curtains here that

fool us with their starched whiteness be

the only banks, the only rivers

ever to flow for us with milk and honey?

.

Beggars we are, working infertile ground.

Like green arrows from a bow, perhaps

both of us have overestimated

the strength that belongs to young girls.

.

And yet maybe it is no sin, maybe

it is even part of knowing yourself human

to want to have some material thing that

can somehow last, and be eternal.

.

I am afraid of muddling everything with

words, on the wrong track again: is

it possible these nineteen years we’ve

shared will disappear without a trace of us?

.

They sank into us like burdens once,

and lay like routes ahead we had to take.

Comes to, wake up now, my dear friend.

Prick your finger with your needle!

.

Along the shipping routes, you also may

bear your lights out into the

open sea, as in other times,

pedlars carried their wares over old Russia.

.

My friend…

.

by Римма Фёдоровна Казакова (Rimma Fyodorovna Kazakova)

(1955?)

translated by Elaine Feinstein

.

Additional information: Rimma Fyodorovna Kazakova (Римма Фёдоровна Казакова) was born in Sevastopol. 27 January 1932 in Sevastopol, Soviet Union – 19 May 2008 in Perkhushkovo, Odintsovo District of Moscow Oblast, Russia) was a Soviet/Russian poet. She was known as an author of many popular songs of the Soviet era. She studied history and worked in Khabarovsk as a lecturer. She has also worked as an editor in a newsreel studio.

Though a very conservative writer, Kazakova is nevertheless unusual in the Soviet context for her occasional frank treatment of such themes as pregnancy. Her poetry, like Berggolts’, is quite often sombre, showing insight into such problems as loneliness or ageing, particularly as it affects women. She identifies with the hard life of hunters, builders, fishermen etc., and much of her poetry springs from her observations of the working life of such people.

Her first rhymes were reminiscent of Yevtushenko, Okudzhava, Voznesensky and Rozhdestvensky and were first published in 1955. Her first poetry collection, Let’s Meet in the East («Встретимся на Востоке»), was published in 1958.

From 1959 until her death, she was a member of the USSR Union of Writers. She also held the position of First Secretary of the Moscow Union of Writers. In October 1993, she signed the Letter of Forty-Two. She died suddenly at age 76 at a medical sanatorium near Perkhushkovo on 19 May 2008 at 1pm. She was buried on 22 May 2008 at Vagankovo Cemetery in Moscow.

.

There doesn’t seem to be much available information about Kazakova in English. In fact this is the only translated poem of hers I’m aware of so if anyone is able to contribute something further then please leave a comment. Especially if you know where to source the original, Cyrillic, version as I couldn’t find any evidence of it after looking at a number of Russian language poetry websites.

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?”

Strays by R.S. Thomas

Of all the women of the fields –

full skirt, small wasit –

the scarecrow is the best dressed.

 

She has an air about her

which more than makes up

for her loss of face.

 

There is nothing between us.

If I take her arm

there is nowhere to go.

 

We are alone and strollers

of a fine day with

under us the earth’s fathoms waiting.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Later Poems (1983)

The Mother of Peredur by Noragh Jones

Six sons and a husband gone to war,

I worried sick. Sure enough

news of their deaths came, one by one.

Then I took Peredur, my last,

To a lonely place, brought him up

in an absence of knights. We were women and children

Touching a gentleness more exact,

Listening, laughing, agreeable together.

Till one day he comes and says,

‘Mother, mother, in the forest

Riders pass in a shining haze’.

‘Ghosts’, I say sadly. ‘Heroes,

Not ghosts’, he shouts, suddenly loud.

‘They’ve promised to teach me how to fight’.

He took our stout old piebald pony,

Kissed me and left. That was the last

I saw of him. The years slip by, and

Travelling folk bring tales of my only

Hero, expecting fat tips

For boosting maternal pride. There is nothing

For them or for me. I am emptied by

His deeds. If I could, I would wish for his

One death, to save the many he will kill.

 

By Noragh Jones

from Women’s Voices from the Mabinogion


Fun fact: Peredur (Old Welsh Peretur) is the name of a number of men from the boundaries of history and legend in sub-Roman Britain.