Igor Beliy

Igor Beliy (Russian: Игорь Белый), born on April 13, 1971, in Moscow, is a Russian poet, songwriter, actor, producer and publisher. He acted as a co-founder of August 32 creative association, Boo Fest literature fair and Hyperion book store and community center, which he leads presently. He also staged several children’s musical performances. Since 2005, a member of Oyfn Veg duo with Evgenia Slavina, having released three music albums. In 2016, he founded a band Zvukoukladochnaya Artel (Russian: Звукоукладочная Артель “Sound Construction Brigade”). He plays live shows in Russia and abroad, in Germany, USA, Great Britain and Israel as well.

Lord God is Leaving This Country

translation from Russian by Yana Kane

“Due to the current international circumstances,
And taking into consideration certain aspects of the situation,
We inform you of a difficult decision:
Lord God is leaving this country.”

It seems as if nothing has changed.
No one is packing their favorite coffee maker and mug,
None of the angels are getting into their Lexus sedans,
No private jet has been seen taking off the back runway.
“There is no reason to panic,” intones the TV set.
“We have domestically-produced replacements.
This is a part of the conspiracy against us.
All property left behind will be nationalized.”
“Should’ve done this ages ago!” A veteran of something or other (*) foams at the mouth.
“If we had not done this,
It would have been done by NATO soldiers!”
“What do you need God for?” a government bureaucrat —
with the face of a cranky baby—is sincerely puzzled.
“See, I get up in the morning, have a hearty meal, and all is fine.
There is no God, but you hold on in there.” (**)

It seems as if nothing is changing—
The buildings with the crosses on top keep their places,
People enter them on the same schedule.
The woman next door sighed gloomily for a long while, then declared:
“It wasn’t quite so hard before.
You’d go, say a prayer, and it would ease off some.”
“And what about now?” I asked her.
“Dunno. I feel like strangling somebody.”

And all around things are off kilter just a bit:
Hideous houses and trees.
People try not to look at each other.
Poems are written with no rhyme, no rhythm.
An acquaintance sent me a link to a petition —
Said we need signatures, to demand that He brought back.
But we have lost count of the days of the war.
I figure, as it is, He had held off for quite a while.

It seems that nothing will change—
All that can happen has already happened.
There is a need to run somewhere, scream, seek,
But without stirring, without making a sound,
To find someone
Inside yourself.

“Due to the current international circumstances,
And taking into consideration certain aspects of the situation,
We inform you of a difficult decision:
Lord God is leaving this country.”

Господь Бог покидает эту страну

«В связи со сложившейся международной обстановкой,
А также принимая во внимание некоторые аспекты,
Сообщаем вам о непростом решении:
Господь Бог покидает эту страну».

И как бы ничего не изменилось.
Никто не пакует чашки и кофеварку,
Никакие ангелы не садятся в «лексусы»,
Ничей частный джет не взлетает с края аэродрома.
«Нет повода для паники! – уверяет телевизор. –
У нас есть отечественные аналоги.
Это часть заговора против нас,
Всё оставленное имущество будет национализировано».
«Давно пора было так сделать! –
Брызжет слюной ветеран не пойми чего. –
Ведь если бы мы этого не сделали,
Это бы сделали солдаты НАТО!»
«А зачем вам Бог? — искренне удивляется чиновник
С лицом капризного ребёнка. –
Вот я встал утром, хорошо покушал – и нормально.
Бога нет, но вы держитесь!»
И как бы ничего не меняется –
Всё так же стоят строения с крестами сверху,
В них по расписанию заходят люди.
Соседка долго мрачно вздыхала, потом сообщила:
«Вот раньше как-то всё легче было.
Пойдёшь, помолишься – дак и отпустит».
«А сейчас-то что?» – спрашиваю.
«Дак не знаю. Убивать хочется».
И всё вокруг тоже по мелочи –
Уродливые дома и деревья,
Люди стараются не смотреть друг на друга,
Стихи пишутся без рифмы и ритма.
Знакомый прислал ссылку на петицию,
Говорит, надо подписать, чтобы вернули.
Но уже какой день войны –
Мне кажется, Он и так долго ждал.
И как бы ничего не изменится –
Всё, что можно, уже случилось.
Надо куда-то бежать, кричать, искать,
Но не двигаясь с места, не издавая ни звука
Кого-то найти
В себе.

«В связи со сложившейся международной обстановкой,
А также принимая во внимание некоторые аспекты,
Сообщаем вам о непростом решении:
Господь Бог покидает эту страну».

Notes
(*) Allusion to the increasingly bombastic and aggressive tone of the celebrations of the Soviet victory in World War II. These celebrations regularly attract “dress-up veterans”: unscrupulous people who dress up in WWII military uniforms, decorate their chests with multiple medals and claim to be war heroes in order to attract attention and adulation. In reality, they were not participants of the war at all, having been toddlers during the war, or born after the war.

(**) Allusion to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev infamous quote: “There is no money. Hold on in there,” In 2016 Medvedev gave this response in Crimea when he was asked by a local elderly woman when the state pensions would increase to the levels promised during the 2014 annexation. Medvedev’s reply went viral in Russia. It acquired the same connotation as the phrase “Let them eat cake”. (In fact, there was a line of cakes produced in Russia with Medvedev’s quote. Eventually these cakes attracted the attention of the government and their production was banned.)

Naftul

translation from Russian by Alexander Murtazayev

“Oh sing, Naftul!” they all plead at once,
For him to helplessly shrug.
He barely held out to see this cell,
But here he ran out of luck.
No point in running when death is near
And follows close like a loyal wife,
But they are asking to sing him here
As if his music was life.

Come say Naftul, where’s your booming voice,
How come you ended up here?
The songs you sang at the synagogue
To city’s adoring ear?
Remember how the Aggadah‘s read,
The candles burn, and the satin shines.
And isn’t it sweet, to think of it now
In the year of nineteen thirty-nine?

And so rose Naftul and his cough was gone,
His face like chalk and his beard jet-black.
He sang as clear as he’s never sung,
He sang like he did way back.
He heard the bustle of busy squares,
And the voice of his did not quiver once.
He saw his daughters, his daughters fair,
His sons, his wonderful sons.

He saw a brother betray his kin
Without batting an eye,
An execution squad closing in
On a schoolteacher at night?
He saw as clear as the morning sky
What is to come for his blood and land.
The cancer ward and the doctor’s coat,
Canadian passport check stand.

He saw the joyless faraway lands,
My face he saw on the train.
And next to him, barely daring to breathe,
The Solicam prison again.
How desperately they all ask for a song!
One cannot ignore their plea.
And the night did smoke, and the night did beat,
For the morning to never be.

Прадед

Ему кричали: «Ну спой, Нафтул!» —
А он лишь руками махал.
До соликамской тюрьмы дотянул
И из неё не сбежал.
Куда бежать, если всюду смерть
За ним шагает, косой грозя?
А здесь так жалобно просят спеть,
Будто без песен нельзя.

А где же твой голос, ответь, Нафтул,
И что ты делаешь здесь?
Как в синагоге ты ре тянул —
Город запомнит весь.
Горели свечи, блестел атлас,
И служка читал Агаду —
И славно вспомнить об этом сейчас,
В тридцать девятом году.

И встал Нафтул, и кашель пропал,
Борода — как смоль, а лицо — как мел.
И пел он так, как когда-то певал,
И как никогда не пел.
Он слышал гомон больших площадей,
И голос его не дрогнул, не стих.
Он видел дочек своих дочерей,
Сынов сыновей своих.

Он пел и видел, как брата брат
Предаст, не меняясь в лице,
И как карательный ждёт отряд
Учительницу на крыльце.
Грядущее крови своей и страны
Открылось ему наперёд —
И кто в Канаду сбежит от войны,
Кого саркома добьёт.

Он видел далёкие злые края,
Меня в толчее метро…
А рядом, дыхание затая,
Молчал соликамский острог.
Так жалобно просят — как не помочь!
Без песен нельзя? Да брось!..
И билась ночь, и курилась ночь,
А утро не началось.