Housekeeping

Dmitri Prigov
I’ve Spent My Whole Life Washing Dishes*

I’ve spent my whole life washing dishes
And composing elevated verse
It’s the source of my worldly wisdom
And the fact my nature is mild and firm

Here’s water flowing: I comprehend it
Down on the street: simple folk and the powers that be
What I do not like, I simply invalidate
While what I like is all around me

*From the cycle “Housekeeping (1975–1986)”

___________________________________________________

 

Alexander Dolgin, Dmitri Prigov, and Iraida Yusupova, Media Opera “Russia” (2005)

The cat who stars in Prigov’s Media Opera “Russia,” refusing to utter the motherland’s name after the poet says it, is just as laconic as the cat in Samuil Marshak’s poem “Whiskered and Striped,” familiar to many generations of Russians from childhood.*

*Stanislav Savitsky, “The Origins of Moscow Conceptualism in Everyday Soviet Life,” unpublished essay, 2020

marshak-stripedSamuil Marshak, Whiskered and Striped, illustrated by Vladimir Lebedev (Detizdat, 1938)

The girl began teaching the kitten to talk.

“Kitty, say ball.”
But it said, “Meow”!

“Say horse.”
But it said, “Meow”!

“Say tea-cher.”
But it said, “Meow”!

“Say e-lec-tri-ci-ty.”
But it said, “Meow”!

Just meow, meow, meow! Now there’s a stupid kitten!

marshak-coverSamuil Marshak, Whiskered and Striped, illustrated by Vladimir Lebedev (Detizdat, 1938)

___________________________________________________

Dmitri Prigov
So Life Below Would Flow*

I acquired a kilogram
Of fish salad at the delicatessen
Nothing wrong with that
I acquired it, and that was that
I ate a little myself
I fed the stuff
To my own native son
We settled down by the window
Next to the transparent glass
Like two male pussycats
So life below would flow

*From the cycle “Housekeeping (1975–1986)”

Thanks to Stanislav Savitsky for permission to quote his essay and inspiring this entire entry. Translated by the Russian Reader

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