In Translation: Poems by Djelal Kuznetsov, trans. Boris Kokotov

Two poems by contemporary Russian poet Djelal Kuznetsov, translated from the Russian by Boris Kokotov. The original Russian follows the English translation.

Bouquet of lilacs

The lilac bouquet resting on my desk
cannot recall whence it has come or how.
It sees reflections in a crystal vase—
the crochets of its own twigs and flowers.

The only memory it has is one of pain
so terrible that every leaf still trembles,
a pain which the bouquet cannot explain
and has no other choice but to surrender.

Pain is the consequence of something that at once
split up its life into unequal portions:
before— outdoors, next to other plants,
and after—on the desk, distressed and lonely.

It just woke up from agonizing dreams
in a crystal realm abound with fresh water
and slowly drinks through mutilated stems—
its farewell, its final earthy quota.

Букет сирени

Букет сирени на моем столе
не может вспомнить, кто он и откуда,
увидев отраженье в хрустале—
своих ветвей волшебные причуды.

Но каждый лист, как огненная нить,
воспоминание о страшной боли гложет,
и эту боль разумно объяснить
“беспамятный” букет, увы, не может.

Боль— это только следствие причин,
разбивших жизнь на две неравных доли:
до боли—на ветвях родных куртин
и, в качестве букета, после боли…

Очнулся от мучительного сна
в хрустальном царстве с чистою водою
и жадно пьёт, не зная, что она—
последнее прощание земное.


Beethoven, “Ode to joy”

Pockmarked, disheveled, and unshaved,
he’s writing furiously and quickly.
He rocks his chair, he swings his head
in silence, to the inner rhythm.
The world is mute, almost hostile.
The priest of music lost his hearing.
Around him—a pantomime
devoid of words, bereft of meaning.
The chime of the old tower clock
was muffled long ago, completely.
The Erard piano’s keys explode
soundlessly under his fingers.
Rain isn’t drumming anymore,
it’s passing quietly and sadly.
The bolt of lightning fails to form
the deafening, earsplitting thunder.
But suddenly, into a world
that seems to grow dim and silent,
the powerful accord is born—
the mighty call, the daring challenge…
His heart is pounding. That’s it!
That is his Ode, his joy, his mission!
He cries, he shouts—and he sings
for those who will come to listen.

Бетховен, “Ода к радости”

Рябой, взъерошенный, седой,
он пишет яростно и быстро,
качая львиной головой
беззвучно, в такт звучащим мыслям.
Враждебен мир и молчалив—
жреца гармоний слух покинул,
слова и чувства обратив
в докучливую пантомиму.
Теперь всё чаще с каждым днем
курантов бой на башне старой,
и не взрываются огнем
пассажей клавиши Эррара.
Дождь за окном беззвучен так,
что, кажется, не льет, а тает,
и даже молнии зигзаг
громов привычных не рождает.
И вот в кромешной тишине
рождается аккорд могучий—
призывный клич, ответ Судьбе—
каскад немыслимых трезвучий…
Он в упеньи, он кричит,
глаза горят, он тяжко дышит
и “Ода к радости” звучит
для тех, кто эту радость слышит!

About the Author

Djelal Ruznetsov (1936-2010) had a long and successful career as a scientist. He began writing poetry later in his life. In the first decade of 21st century he was quite visible on the Russian-language Internet-based literary portals. His poetry collection Looking Back was published in Moscow in 2006. He also translated poetry from Spanish, German, and French to Russian language. His translation of Rilke’s “Sonnets to Orpheus” was published in 2008.

About the Translator

Boris Kokotov was born in Moscow. Since 1991 he has lived in Baltimore. He writes poems and short stories in Russian and English. His translations of German Romantics were published in the anthology The Century of Translation in Moscow. His translation of Louise Glück’s “The Wild Iris” was nominated for the best translation of 2012 in Russia. His translations of contemporary Russian poets to English can be found in periodicals.

Appears In

Issue 5

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