Translated by Jamie Olson
from Issue 22
Not feeling well, bad boy?
Disgusted, ugly duckling?
Frightened, little freak?
Can’t get enough, munchkin?
Want some more?
Oh, can’t you do it, weakling?
I’ll show you who the weak one is!
God’s our only judge, He sees
that whatever I happen to be,
I’m at least a part of reality.
But you — who the hell do you think
you are, you shameless, brazen Nothing?
All right, let’s say I am a bad boy,
and a mindless, ugly one at that,
and that I’m lying here beneath you
on both my bony shoulder blades —
but at least I’m still alive!
You’re not even here at all.
I couldn’t care less about what I read
in Batyushkov’s poem on Melchizedek.
He said I shouldn’t believe in Logos—
that the void’s a blessing in disguise!
Well, it’s nowhere near enough for me…
And yet — somehow — it’s not so scary.
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.