Poems by Vyacheslav Vasilievich Semikin

A politic in that land lived to see

A politic in that land lived to see,
The reward he’d earned in that
Country, with whom he’d warred
And which he’d defeated.

Fatherland, incarnating into the majority,
Into a reckoning, cunning class,
A visionary banished the one,
Who’d led him in a frightening hour.

The regent, attains esteem
On continents of tsars,
He sighs senility: - All effuses,
All is vanity, Panta Rhe.

In Europe twilight. On the shore of
Amicable indigenous waters
He watches from the side of the enemy,
Drinking in luxurious sunset.

But an hour earlier he’d ascended on board
And ere long over him flies
One who was also an ardent patriot
And an ardent cosmopolite.

(Here is the point, where we shed a tear
On the barbaric line:
A one-hundred-oared sailing vessel is there, below,
And a Boeing here, above.)

No leader, no martyr, no hero,
Finno-Ugrian, anchorite,
- In sublunary, - this second sighs -
There are no major changes.

Capricious Mediterranean fate,
Cloying companion,
Has paved our roads in such a way,
That Mobias – is disgraced…

He sees with gathered height,
Pressing his forehead against the glass,
The maple copper of The Cyclades,
Earthenware strata in blue.

                February 7, 1988

You can’t write to people of

You can’t write to people of:
the clandestine state – people are earthbound,
encountering letters, but behind them – no sound,
seeing a petition
			or information –
nothing is superfluous!

		The opaque state –
			people winding serpentine,
in the recesses of the mind there is no space to fit,  or to conceive that
nothing is superfluous! –
			it won’t stick.
At a glance Basilisk licks it up,
the charisma of the state.

Poets are understood posthumously,
as they commemorate:
“we are grateful to you, Progeny.

But no one dare to love the living.

“Rabble,” “masses”
			outdated and antidemocratic.
Oh, what’s the use of these classics! –
			they were just too cantankerous –
all for nothing!
no contempt! not damned! –
of this to people you can’t

The state hypnotizes,
the state is supreme – like a serpent above the chicks.
What can you write to them,
			they won’t be torn away,
the state is sweet –
			people cling to it.

I won’t hang myself – I write,
into the air, without an address, nameless –
Perhaps, tomorrow? –
			I await, but do not seek...
Are you dashing out there somewhere, genius darlings?...

The Living Dead

The bells resound,
The bells clamor,
Clouds enshroud
				the bells,

Copper flowed, to a flame
				wrought, a canon -
A poem
				ablaze from the ringing of the bells.

A symphony! Sophocles!
As an epos, an imperious concord!
The bells resound,
Window glass quivers.

The masses below – along the streets,
Along the gastronomes – the rituals,
Along the puddles, go about their edible affairs…
The bells look on,
The bells clamor,
Together in flight on a wire
				the bells.

Once the masses flocked to them,
Once they were rung in reverence …

The bells fly,
The bells howl,
				the bells,
Complain to the stars
And weep with the rains as they fall,
				waning fury lolls,
And the first to go quiet are the yes-men.

The bells bellow,
The bells are silent…

One – hoary, blind –
				still boomed,
There is still Homer!...

And was there anybody –
				unfurling their umbrella at the door,
Who purred to themselves:
				“Vesper bells…”

		Leningrad, 1963


The city is reaching for the straits
with shadows, as wire –
			an assassination attempt.
From the lowlands to the hills – as if Eve is
reaching for the tree …

A net is cast to snare –
			the commuter trains sense and feel it:

-- I want to go beyond The Lakes,
			beyond The Lakes…

Like a largo wish,
			the power of the unattainable!...

Sparkling in delirium the heather…
			the boulder-mirages…

The night looks on. Souls take flight,
like a hand along nylon – rising ever higher…
All homeless aloft the pines –
beneath the branches nothing will quiver but the lake,
white breasts through lace…

Nonliving quiet.

The city reaching, the city filling with mist,
o, powerless grandeur! – no seduction and no infusion.
O, languish of that not found!...
It is as it should be -
to forever dream of the fringes,
resting one’s homes on mist.

		Leningrad, 1967


Vyacheslav Vasilievich Semikin

Vyacheslav Vasilievich Semikin was born on May 23, 1937 in Leningrad, USSR. He attended Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) State University, majoring in Philosophy, but left in the third year without completing his degree. He worked as a stage assistant at the Lenin Komsomol Theater, now Baltic House, and toured with the company throughout what was then the Soviet Union. In 1978, Semikin was forcibly physically removed from his home, an ancient wooden wing of an old structure on the Canal Griboedov, near Bankovsky Most. The wing was demolished. This forcible eviction, coupled with his disillusionment with the University and general feeling that he could not express himself freely, solidified his disdain of the Soviet state and propelled him further into what was to become a solitary and isolated existence. All of these experiences heavily influenced his poetry. Semikin died in February of 1990, immediately upon his return to Leningrad from a trip to New York. Neither a member of the Writer’s Union, nor a part of the Leningrad Underground which would have afforded him the opportunity to publish in Samizdat form, Semikin was never published during his lifetime.

Margarita Shalina

Margarita Shalina was born in Leningrad and raised on New York’s Lower East Side. Her poetry has appeared in 3:AM Magazine, At-Largemagazine.com, Poems for the Retired Nihilist V. 2 (Fortune Teller Press, UK), and EvergreenReview.com. She has written essays for ZEEK and Three Percent. She was a contributing translator to Contemporary Russian Poetry (Dalkey Archive Press) and is the Independent Press Buyer for St. Marks Bookshop. She lives in New York.

English translation copyright (c) Margarita Shalina, 2009.