Translated by Jamie Olson
from Issue 22
When you open up your eyes then squeeze them shut
against the glare of verdure from the open window,
against the singing of these birds, against July —
won’t you be ashamed? Won’t you be afraid?
When the final sunbeam drops down through the dark
blue clouds and onto the water in the autumn silence,
slipping along the waves awhile before it dies —
won’t you be afraid? Won’t you be ashamed?
When the snow races out of the gloom and floats
up with the headlight beams that slip along the wall,
and when it disappears again and softly melts
upon a young girl’s cheek — won’t you be afraid?
Won’t you feel shame and fear when water flows
across the asphalt, blackened in the springtime thaw,
and clouds adorn the puddles, while the sunshine licks
the edges of your school desk — won’t you be ashamed?
I wish I could tell you what it was I meant to say.
Perhaps it’s nothing. Perhaps it’s just me being silly.
Such beauty and such silence . . . And yet I want to know:
Won’t you be afraid? Won’t you be ashamed?
Timur Kibirov was born in 1955 and began publishing his poems in the 1980s. Being one of the most influential of contemporary Russian poets, he was closely associated with underground poets like Lev Rubinstein, Dmitri Prigov, and Sergey Gandlevsky, and critics often identify his work with postmodernism and conceptualism. He is the author of thirteen poetry collections, including When Lenin Was Young, Amour, exil, and In the Margins of “A Shropshire Lad”. The poems translated for TWO LINES come from his collection Greek and Roman Catholic Songs and Nursery Rhymes, 1986-2009, which contains over two decades of poems all centered on the theme of religious faith. Kibirov has won many honors, including the “Anti-Booker” award and Russia’s prestigious “Poet” prize.
Jamie Olson teaches in the English Department at Saint Martin’s University, just outside of Olympia, Washington. His essays and translations from Russian have recently appeared in Anomalous Press, Crab Creek Review, and Translation Review. He writes about poetry, translation, and Russian culture on his blog The Flaxen Wave.
Original text: Timur Kibirov, from Greek and Roman Catholic Songs and Nursery Rhymes, 1986-2009. Moscow: Vremya, 2011.