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“Meet Vera Petrovna! She is a cannibal.” 10 Russian anti-war poems

Today, the Smokestack Books publishing house (UK) has released Disbelief, a collection of 100 anti-war poems in Russian and English written by 100 poets after February 24. The Insider presents 10 of the most hard-hitting works.

ALL CARDS
  • Meet Vera Petrovna! She is a Cannibal

  • The House that Jack Wrecked

  • Mother Russia

  • Don't Kill

  • There will be No Сoffins

  • And They Seized Love and Dragged Her out into the Square

  • Day Four

  • Look at Our Multitudes! Who Could Provide for Us

  • Are you from Russia Yes, Unfortunately

  • You, Residing in an Ivory Tower

Читать на русском языке

Dmitry Kolomensky

Meet Vera Petrovna! She is a Cannibal

Meet Vera Petrovna! She is a cannibal.
No, it’s not like she boils folks for dinner. She isn’t an animal.
It’s not like she prowls under the cloak of the night, hiding beneath,
Flashing her blade, rattling her cane, sucking her teeth —
No, nay, never! Vera Petrovna grows just like a plant.
Under westerly winds, she assumes an eastward slant.
Under easterly winds, she leans west, and, I’ll have you know,

At those times, Vera doesn’t eat anyone. No.

But whenever a boss, any big or small boss, any boss of any kind,
Speechifying about peace and joy, makes his special sign,
Gives a certain signal, then Vera Petrovna makes sure the sign has been read.
Her shoulders grow wide and her eyes glow a special red.
Her religious feelings, class hatred and virginal honor grow so big, in a beat,
That she begins searching for someone to eat.
Having detected an ugly look, an unpleasant nose, an unwholesome conversation,
A simple Vera Petrovna will write a denunciation.
A sophisticated Vera Petrovna will write an article or a manual,
Titled “The Comprehensive List of Recommendations
………………… For the Identification and Disabling
……………….. Of the Politically Undesirable Elements,
……………….. Which Interfere with Russia’s Ability to Rise From Her Knees and Live in Bliss Perennial.”
But the truest Vera Petrovna knows the best places where they serve human flesh raw,
So she goes to work for the prosecution, for the police, for the law,
Where the meat is fresh, the supply chain is great, and everything works without a hitch.
Plus, eating together is healthier than eating alone, which
Has been proven time and again, no matter the age or the nation in which you eat.
As to the gravy which makes human flesh taste especially sweet,
It should be picked with respect to the era in which you eat it,

Based on the extant norms of how human flesh should be procured and treated.

But then, times change, and the boss gives a sign that active feeding is through.
At once, Vera Petrovna’s back goes slack and she switches her red eyes to blue,
Or brown; her feelings, her hatred, her honor cool down from hot to warm.
Once again, she assumes a regular person’s form.
Then, Vera Petrovna and I have a neighborly chat at the bus stop,
Like, radishes were crappy this year, but potatoes gave us a nice crop,
Like, they said we won’t get any snow in December — but then I see
She is staring intently, strangely, right through my coat, at me,
As though deciding which part of me would be roast and which would be stew.
“Meat’s hard to come by, these days,” she says. “The options are few.

Gotta kill for a decent cut.”

..........................................................

I open my mouth. I can’t speak at all.
I don’t know what to say, I don’t know where to flee; if I’d known, I’d have fled.
The motor is running, my heart is drumming, the bus goes forth at a crawl,

And Vera Petrovna’s eye is glowing blood-red.

(Translated by A.K.)

Maria Remizova

The House that Jack Wrecked

This is the house
that Jack wrecked.
And these are the tenants who went to hide
In the dark basement and so survived
In the house

that Jack wrecked.

This is the merry titmouse
That flies no longer about the house,
The house

that Jack wrecked.

This is the cat
That cowers and whimpers and doesn’t get
What's going on with the bombs and all that
In the house

that Jack wrecked.

This is the tailless dog,
Toothless, gutless, beheaded, declawed.
Maybe up in heaven it will meet God
In the house

That Jack wrecked.

This is the cow with the crumpled horn,
Mooing, its udder tattered and torn,
Dripping blood and milk in the morn
On the road to the house

That Jack wrecked.

This is the old woman, sad and forlorn,
That can’t see the cow with the crumpled horn,
Can’t see the dead dog without tail and all that,
Can't see the mewling, hysterical cat,
Can't see the silent and motionless titmouse,
Can't see the mess in the basement of the house,
The house

That Jack wrecked.

She clings to the steps in an odd embrace,

A meat fly crawling across her face.

(Translated by Dmitri Manin)

Igor Irteniev

Mother Russia

Russia is my motherland, –
Although I’m just a Jew, –
With rivers by the shitload,

And woods and mountains, too,

With cows and chickens wall to wall,
And swans from sea to sea –
But it has people most of all,

And that’s the tragedy.

(Translated by A.K.)

Julia Pikalova

Don't Kill

Don’t kill
– No one’s killed they’re all living
Don’t kill
– At least now we are even-steven
Don’t kill
– Let them crouch in the basement some more
Don’t kill
– But killing was fine before
Don’t kill
– It was them they killed their own
Now they sit under rubble calling out to the West now they moan
Don’t kill
– They aren’t even a nation they need a firm hand
What we do to them we do as a friend
And we won’t rest
Till they see it’s best
For them to be saved from the wicked West
Don’t kill
– Then they will kill us
Glory to the special operation
Glory to the Spetsnaz
Glory to Russia’s military force
Thanks to Zem the planet is staying its course
Glory to Putin the savior and crusher
Glory to Russia
Don’t kill
– The world lies in evil lies
Put a white armband on it now it’s one of our guys
Then we’ll point our guns away
It can stay
Don’t kill
– For peace we’ll do what it takes
Don’t kill
– Precision strikes on the Nazis the commander makes no mistakes
Don’t kill
– You know this issue has two sides
Don’t kill
– Sending you a rug and the kid a coat in his size
I’ll mail a larger one once I find it as well
In hell
Don’t kill
– We remind the traitorous weeping fifth column
Of their granddads in the Gulag that’s where we can haul ‘em
Don’t kill
– The world doesn’t know what good newZ we bring in this upheaval

We are the pure absolute unadulterated

(Translated by A.K.)

Tatiana Voltskaya

There will be No Сoffins

There will be no coffins. Our children will burn to ashes
In a mobile oven, and the smoke will swirl and waft
Over the fields of Ukraine where the black plume meshes

With the smoke of wildfire – up there, on the left.

Instead of the body, the doorbell will ring, a polite
Army captain will bring the ashes in a neat package
And place it silently on the bookshelf, right

By the photo of a brave soldier with demob patches,

Turned a contractnik. The captain will open his briefcase,
With a jerk of his head, as if something bothered
Him, he’ll fish out a paper, establish a base

On the stool, hold it out: sign here for non-disclosure.

She'll sign. He'll pick up his briefcase and hustle on
Past the TV with a crooning pop singer clown
And a bunk bed where on top the younger son,
A ninth-grade student leans over and stares down

At him as intensely as if waiting for a box of his own.

(Translated by Dmitri Manin)

Olya Skorlupkina

And They Seized Love and Dragged Her out into the Square

And they seized Love and dragged her out into the square
Maybe to hang her or maybe to pour metal down her throat
Molten metal so she would not put on her act anymore anywhere

So that she’d stop rambling about mercy, that stupid whore

The traitor, the bitch, what shall we do with her --
Every word is a snare between exclamation and question marks.
After a prayer for peace, be ready for blood and hurt,

For all they say is a lie and for them, there’s no Father above.

They have holiday cards with saints, set in Comic Sans.
Easter cookies, snazzy and charming.
They color eggs, they adjust backpacks
And braids on their daughters’ hair; then the next morning

The same fingers type “break her skinny and crooked legs”

(For her words about hope for peace)
And Love giggles in a small voice.
They drag her away, she shivers, breaks into dance, and shakes.

Love will endure all things. Does she really have a choice

(Translated by Andrey Burago)

Alja Khajtlina

Day Four

Someone who lives inside me is twenty-five weeks.
For twenty-five weeks I’ve been his bread and bed sheets.
And if I’m now sobbing or screeching,

What do I teach him?

Someone inside the subway has turned three days old.
He knows no daylight, but he knows fire and cold.
He lies on a little wool blanket, surrounded by

So many hands and eyes.

Someone stuck in the bomb shelter has just turned five.
He’s already learned to stay silent to stay alive,
Not to whine “Mommy, toons” or “don’ wanna eat that.”

Children learn fast.

I don’t give a damn how old the kremlin man is,
But the ground must split and swallow him right where he stands,
And on the spot where this happens, I have no doubt,

Nothing green will sprout.

His spit shall foam, and his blood shall turn into shit,
And on his grave “Serves him right” shall be writ,
And the kids – let the kids learn to whine again.

Thus the war will end.

(Translated by Dmitri Manin)

Boris Khersonskii

Look at Our Multitudes! Who Could Provide for Us

Look at our multitudes! Who could provide for us—
escapees, refugees, call us what you will.
There’s no recourse—the foe is too treacherous.
Any vacuum’s abhorrent, but not all can be filled.
Man seeks greener pastures. He dresses to kill,
but a pebble set in gold never pleases.

Pilate freed Barrabas and condemned Jesus.

Their ship of justice won’t stray off course—
it condemns truth and justifies hatred.
Their country doesn’t want truth but resources.
Laws won’t bind it and nothing will sate it.
Our land has been plowed, but the farmers are exiled.
They cram foreign tongues, mangle accents,

forget words, confuse kopeks with eurocents.

We’ve been strewn through the cities of Europe.
The cities delight, but within them we’re strangers.
Back home, missiles are flying nonstop,
girls weave camouflage, young men dig trenches,
while down in the basements huddles my generation.
Winds of war tear us like leaves off our branches,
so we wait our turn at the train and bus stations,

startling when someone nearby speaks our language.

Back where we’re not, lie our old photo albums,
holding faces forgotten and others forever beloved.
The trains are still running, the airports are lying in shambles.
Stooping, you can’t see how many are stooped all about.
The bodies keep piling, the gravediggers cannot keep up.
The howl of the sirens shakes us out of our daze.
All know the symptoms of fleeing—it’s a common malaise.
Refugees carry pain and nostalgia wherever they roam.

Ghosts don’t have shadows. Our shadows stayed home.

(Translated by Maria Bloshteyn)

Ksenia Buksha

Are you from Russia Yes, Unfortunately

are you from russia
yes, unfortunately
why unfortunately we all love russia
here we had a war and russia defended us
from the enemy and you don’t even know what war is
war is worse than a drought
and you say unfortunately how can you
say that you just don’t know how awful war is
I came here x years ago running away from war you understand
and you say unfortunately russia how could that be
I hope they are all killed off soon I could just strangle
all of them with my bare hands
the damned murderers—they all need to be killed off—because it is terrible to kill—you should kill all those who kill
her speech speeds up as if fed in reverse
it rolls up into a ball the image breaks up
the cracks of her face morph into shallow ripples
thunder in your ears like the tide howling among distant cliffs—she
keeps nodding her head as if mechanical

kill kill kill

(Translated by Maria Bloshteyn)

Vadim Zhuk

You, Residing in an Ivory Tower

You, residing in an ivory tower
Head in the clouds, nursing your pride,
You, who can’t tell yesterday from tomorrow,

Know this: you’re a warring side.

You, binge-buying sugar and matches
To take the lean year in stride –
Eyeless corpses are staring at you.

You are a warring side.

You, who fell silent, who mutters,
“Not my fault,” “I can’t turn the tide,”
Wolves will get you through closed shutters,

For you are a warring side.

You may give zero fucks with your bottomless
Blasted bottle, but you can’t hide.
Your own demons won’t let you rest:

You’re also a warring side.

You whose poems subtly glow,
You're wide open and in for a ride.
You’re from here. Not beyond or above. And so,

You are a warring side.

(Translated by Dmitri Manin)

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