‘this defenseless extra’

THE ANTIWORLDS by Andrei Voznesensky
There is Bukashkin, our neighbor,
in underpants of blotting paper,
and, like balloons, the Antiworlds
hang up above him in the vaults.

Up there, like a magic daemon,
he smartly rules the Universe,
Antibukashkin lies there giving
Lollobrigida a caress.

The Anti-great-academician
has got a blotting paper vision.

Long live creative Antiworlds,
great fantasy amidst daft words!
There are wise men and stupid peasants,
there are no trees without deserts.

There’re Antimen and Antilorries,
Antimachines in woods and forests.
There’s salt of earth, and there’s a fake.
A falcon dies without a snake.

I like my dear critics best.
The greatest of them beats the rest
for on his shoulders there’s no head,
he’s got an Antihead instead.

At night I sleep with windows open
and hear the rings of falling stars,
From up above skyscrapers drop and,
like stalactites, look down on us.

High up above me upside down,
stuck like a fork into the ground,
my nice light-hearted butterfly,
my Antiworld, is getting by.

I wonder if it’s wrong or right
that Antiworlds should date at night.
Why should they sit there side by side
watching TV all through the night?
They do not understand a word.
It’s their last date in this world.
They sit and chat for hours, and
they will regret it in the end!
The two have burning ears and eyes,
resembling purple butterflies…

…A lecturer once said to me:
“An Antiworld? It’s loonacy!”

I’m half asleep, and I would sooner
believe than doubt the man’s word…
My green-eyed kitty, like a tuner,
receives the signals of the world.

© Copyright Alec Vagapov’s translation

Well, it is obvious to me that this Voznesensky fellow would have been involuntarily committed or cruelly ignored if he lived in the U.S. in 2010. He died on June 1st of this year.

What was I doing on June 1st?

Interesting, very interesting.

Much more interesting is that I came across Voznesensky by randomly clicking on a google result related to ‘heart like a sieve’ and isn’t it amazing that his poem “My Achilles Heart” was published in LIFE magazine, along with a full article about his ideas and photos of people listening to him speak, looking thoughtful and appreciative?

It breaks my heart that our popular media no longer features Russian poets…or any poets other than Ms. Angelou on inauguration day.

What the hell is happening around here?

This is horrible.

MY ACHILLES HEART

In these days of unheard-of suffering
One is lucky indeed to have no heart:
Crack-shots plug me again and again,
But have no luck.

Riddled with holes, I laugh
At the furious pack: “Tally-ho, boys!
I am a lattice. Look through me.
Isn’t the landscape lovely?”

But suppose a gun should locate,
Tied by an aching thread,
Beating a hair’s breadth off target,
My Achilles heart.

Beware, my darling. Hush. Not a sound,
While I charge noisily
From place to place around Russia,
As a bird diverts the hunters from its nest.

Are you still in pain? Do you act up at night?
This defenseless extra is what saves me.
Do not handle it roughly;
The shudder would bring me down.

Our destruction is unthinkable,
More unthinkable what we endure,
More unthinkable still that a sniper
Should ever sever the quivering thread.

—translated by W.H. Auden

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