Portrait of Regina Derieva by Dennis Creffield / Image courtesy of The Regina Derieva Web Site
In the past month, we lost two important Russian poets, both of them expatriates: Natalya Gorbanevskaya in Paris on November 29, and Regina Derieva in Stockholm on December 11. To honor their memory, I am posting a favorite poem by each from anthologies on my shelf. Those keen to read more from these two women would do well to turn to Derieva’s Corinthian Copper, translated by Jim Kates, and Gorbanevskaya’s Selected Poems, translated by Daniel Weissbort—who died just twelve days before she did.
* * *
[…where rivers flow purer than silver]
by Natalya Gorbanevskaya
…where rivers flow purer than silver,
not polluted by heavy oil and grease,
where God has not abandoned us and bright
is the Admiralty spire, where on straw
lies the Infant and the bull makes utterances
wiser than the wise man, having eaten its fill of celandine,
where the Russian has long ago had enough of victories
and war, staying within his native bound,
where beneath the cover of a starry cloak
the state’s robbers do not creep up on us,
where, rinsing the syllables for a long time in their throat,
but not contemplating whether it’s to the point or not,
like a fairy tale, retelling something that really happened,
the real events of the past, past pain, past love,
you are transformed into dusty feathergrass,
and I show white in the wind, like a dandelion.
Translated by Gerald S. Smith
* * *
Beyond Siberia again Siberia
by Regina Derieva
Beyond Siberia again Siberia,
beyond impenetrable forest again forest.
And beyond it waste ground,
where a blizzard of snow breaks loose.
The blizzard has handcuffs, and the snow-
storm has a knife which kills at once…
I will die, pay a debt
for others who lives somewhere,
out of spite, out of fear and terror,
out of pain, out of a nameless grave…
Beyond the wall another wall,
on the wall stopped dead one sentinel.
Translated by Kevin Carey