Grigory Kruzhkov
Translated from Russian by Boris Dralyuk and the author 
Grigory Kruzhkov's collection of poems, essays and translations on Cardinal Points portal (in Russian)   Print versionSTOSVET PUBLISHING HOUSE

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Two Poems from Pushkin Hills

1.The Bath-house in Mikhailovskoye

Pushkin sits in a tub
soaping his head:
emblem of Bliss.

The professor propels himself
out of a cannon up to the Moon:
emblem of Spiritual Quest.

         At first
all these anxieties:
is the cannon precisely aimed,
and shall we be able to break away,
or just flop again
into the same bliss?

But now
the point of no return is passed.

the projectile starts falling.

And what we call the Moon approaches
so quickly that the professor
steps back from the window
illuminated by the ominous
blue of this Moon...

                                        So fast?

But the point of return is passed.

2. The Onegin Bench in Trigorskoye

On the hill called Raven Hill
a ruin of a citadel
and a single cow grazing.
She raises her head and looks left -
on the other hill over the ravine
                                        a bench.

And a tiny Eugene Onegin
saying something to Tatiana -
or could it be Olga? -
for the cow,
it's too far to determine.

Tufted clouds are drifting
over the lake and the meadows -
the straw stacked in cartloads.

Further off a haze of midges
tilting on the horizon,
yet these are not midges
but swans turning to go.

It is August, the Assumption
the last flowers are blooming.

The sky is too big.
Onegin too small.
The cow is weeping.

                                        Translated from Russian by the author

                                      * * *

Snow serves as mountains for the city dwellers -
replaces kisses for abandoned lovers
and churches for the faithless. In December,
abandoned by the sunlight, we subsist
on frozen larvae of the summer's radiance.

The snow is Jacob's ladder, and along it
descend our angels, those we love most dearly,
and, having stayed with us awhile, ascend
again into the dark above the streetlamps.

Go build yourself another human creature
and, handing it a twig, leave it to stand
beside the doorway - so that all night long
it longs, and languishes, and burns for you,
as for a being of a different nature.

                                        Translated from Russian by Boris Dralyuk

                   T a Munich Ant

I kneeled there just to tie my shoe.

And a strange little world entered my view,
all scudding off somewhere with awful haste;
like refugees, rushing to take their place
aboard the last destroyer,
                                        busy ants
ran off, with heavy bales in hand,
in a direction I could not surmise...
I froze, staring in indolent surprise
at little folk, rushing with all their strength
toward a faraway mirage,
                                        then took a breath
and asked the nearest one: - Tell me the truth:
Where are you running?
                                        - Catching up with youth,
the little ant replied
                                        and flitted by.

I straightened up. From the all-seeing sky
lofty Apollo, bent above the forest,
looked down on me -
                                        with the same kind of interest.

                                        Translated from Russian by Boris Dralyuk


The Pushkin Hills is a government-protected reserve, situated three hundred miles away from St. Petersburg, around Mikhaylovskoe village of the Pskov region, where Pushkin spent three years in exile. The Russian culture has nurtured the Mikhaylovskoe myth, which includes a humble house, an old nanny, who recites vernacular fairy tales to him, a large pond, which the poet lauded in his verse, and many more. In August 1994, on the eve of my departure from Russia to the US, I decided to visit Mikhaylovskoe engaging in a sentimental pilgrimage of a kind. The pre-autumnal weather was splendid, sunny, and tranquil. I was walking around in the vicinity of Mikhaylovskoe and was saying farewell to those environs, unaware of the twists and turns my own life was about to take. Raven Hill (Voronich) is a hill that borders the Trigorskoye estate, a residence of Pushkins friends and widely believed to be the inspiration for the Larin estate in Eugene Onegin. One can find there an Onegin bench, often shown to tourists, where supposedly the confession scene between Evgene and Tatyana took place.

The bath-house is a little hut, next to the mansion at the Mikhaylovskoe estate. As far as I remember, the first half of this hut was occupied by Pushkins nanny Arina Rodionovna, while the second half was used by Pushkin as a bath-house. He washed there, sitting in an enormous wooden tub. I depicted Pushkin as sitting in a tub to symbolize domesticity, in sharp contrast to a Jules Vernes professor who flies to the moon in an iron shell, which, in turn, is a symbol of search and journey. Pushkin realistically faced this dilemma, plotting to potentially flee abroad while in Mikhaylovskoe. At the same time, the professor who overcomes the Earths gravitation is most likely a self-portrait.

Translated from Russian by Alexander Veytsman

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