By Timur Kibirov

Translated by Jamie Olson

from Issue 22


Spake the madman from deep in his heart: “God
is nothing!” And yet this doctrine is not half bad —
like hell could you get a damn thing from your heart!
Down there you’ll find not a thing of His sort.
Oh, you pitiful madman, He’s just not there.
No, my Shepherd could just as well be nowhere,
and you won’t find one drop of Him there.

Spake the thinker from deep in his heart: “God
is dead!” And yet this thesis is not half bad.
Strange though it may seem, you’ve spoken the truth.
It scares us, but still we should listen to you.
Oh, poor Friedrich, you’ve got it right, we murdered Him.
We took the body of my good Shepherd and buried it.
Three days the world went on without Him!

Spake the warrior from deep in his heart: “God
is with us!” And yet this slogan is not half bad.
Like it or not, He’s right here with us, nearby —
you can’t escape Him however you try!
Oh, poor Caesar, nothing can ever be hidden,
not by you or by anyone, from my Shepherd’s
gaze, nor shielded from His hand.

So let any poor fool from deep in his heart
cry out something along these lines in the dark:
Judge me not! Don’t judge me by my sins,
nor by the stupid things I’ve said!
My good Shepherd, take this dim-witted sheep
and leave him at your Father’s feet.
Keep a tuft of wool — just a little, hardly
anything, really — from your foolish servant
to spin His everlasting yarn.

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.

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