Boris Mirkin, 1937-2019

boris merkinBoris Mirkin, 1937–2019. Photo courtesy of Iofe Foundation

Boris Savelyevich Mirkin, poet, political prisoner, board member of the St. Petersburg Memorial Society, and our comrade, died on April 1, 2019.

Boris Savelyevich was born in Leningrad in 1937. During the Siege, he was evacuated from the city. He graduated from the Leningrad Chemical and Pharmaceutical Institute in 1964 and went to work at Research Laboratory No. 1 of the Military Medical Academy. After Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, Boris Savelyevich wrote poems condemning the invasion. He was arrested in 1981 and charged with violating Article 70 Part 1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code [“anti-Soviet agitation”]. The Leningrad City Court convicted him, sentencing him to three years and six months of forced labor. He served his time in the camps of Perm Region. After his release, Boris Savelyevich worked as a lathe operator at the Krasny Vyborzhets factory in Leningrad, a trade he had picked up in the camps. In 2004, he wrote and published a book of memoirs and poems entitled I Face the Music (Derzhu otvet...).

The book included this poem, which he wrote in a labor camp in Perm Region in 1982.

Since childhood I hated lies.
They sickened my soul.
Truth alone is light and power,
Piercing the heart like a knife.
Those who lied from podiums
And pulpits, who regaled
The baron’s hollow tales
As truth, I found odious.

Who sent us far not knowing why,
Who knew only head-on attacks,
So no one got off with a scratch,
Who marched us to heaven not knowing the way.

Alas, to this day the liars thrive,
Ignoring the truth for falsehoods.
Oh, the world is filled with mugs,
The smug faces of those who worship lies.

People are invited to pay their last respects to Boris Savelyevich Mirkin from ten to eleven in the morning on April 5 at the morgue of the Elizabeth Hospital, 14 Academician Baykov Street.

Source: Iofe Foundation Newsletter, April 4, 2019. Translated by the Russian Reader

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Sonnet 133

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Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me!
Is’t not enough to torture me alone,
But slave to slavery my sweet’st friend must be?
Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken,
And my next self thou harder hast engross’d:
Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken;
A torment thrice threefold thus to be cross’d.
Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward,
But then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail;
Whoe’er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigor in my gaol:
And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.

Source: etc.usf.edu. Photo taken at Volkovo Lutheran Cemetery in Petersburg on December 22, 2018, by the Russian Reader

Sonnet 130

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My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Source: poets.org. Photo by the Russian Reader

Sonnet 83

 

clouds

I never saw that you did painting need
And therefore to your fair no painting set;
I found, or thought I found, you did exceed
The barren tender of a poet’s debt;
And therefore have I slept in your report,
That you yourself being extant well might show
How far a modern quill doth come too short,
Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow.
This silence for my sin you did impute,
Which shall be most my glory, being dumb;
For I impair not beauty being mute,
When others would give life and bring a tomb.
There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.

Source: Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Photo by the Russian Reader

Sonnet 71

DSCN9835“Down with death.” Photo by the Russian Reader

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Then you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O, if, I say, you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse.
But let your love even with my life decay,
Lest the wise world should look into your moan
And mock you with me after I am gone.

Source: Poetry Foundation

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Sonnet 68

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Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn,
When beauty lived and died as flowers do now,
Before the bastard signs of fair were born,
Or durst inhabit on a living brow;
Before the golden tresses of the dead,
The right of sepulchres, were shorn away,
To live a second life on second head;
Ere beauty’s dead fleece made another gay:
In him those holy antique hours are seen,
Without all ornament, itself and true,
Making no summer of another’s green,
Robbing no old to dress his beauty new;
And him as for a map doth Nature store,
To show false Art what beauty was of yore.

Source: Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Photo by the Russian Reader

Yanka Dyagileva, “Hell Brink”

yanka“I don’t know now whether I’ll fall or fly. / I don’t have the strength to fly away nor do I want to lie.”

Янка Дягилева
Ад-край

Отдыхай, я молчу. Я внизу, в стороне.
Я в краю, где молчат. Я на самом краю.
Где-то край, где-то рай, где-то ад, где-то нет
Там, где край, там и ад. Там, где рай, там и нет ничего
Головою в порог — дверь закрой, не смотри
С башни вниз полетишь, если ветер внутри
Если нет, будешь камнем лежать под горой
Там, где празднуют пир при Луне упыри .
Я не знаю теперь — упаду, полечу:
Улететь нету сил, а лежать не хочу
Будет ночь — закричу, отвернусь, укачусь
Разобьюсь всё равно до утра
Постучу во все двери. Пройду по местам, где вас нет
Просто так — может встречу кого по пути
Поклонюсь до земли — головою в порог в третий раз —
Раза два мне ещё до пяти. До шести ещё три —
Будет срок и в острог
Тяжело здесь лежать, были б силы уйти
Или вниз, или с краю чуть-чуть отойти
Хоть на метр — присесть-посидеть-покурить
Может дух испустить, может, перевести…
Отдыхай, не всегда ведь со мною легко
Я не та, кто я есть. Я пока далеко
Я внизу в стороне. Я на самом краю.

Июнь 1987, Омск

Source: grob-khroniki.org

Yanka Dyagileva
Hell Brink 

Relax, I’m silent. I’m down below, off to the side.
I’m in the land of the silent. I’m on the very brink.
Heaven, hell, the brink are somewhere and somewhere not.
Find the brink and you’ll find hell. Find heaven and you’ll find nothing.
Run headfirst into the threshold. Close the door, don’t look.
You’ll hurtle from the tower if there’s a wind inside.
If there’s none, you’ll like like a rock under the mountain
Where the vampires feast when the moon is out.
I don’t know now whether I’ll fall or fly.
I don’t have the strength to fly away nor do I want to lie.
When night comes, I’ll scream, I’ll turn away, I’ll leave in a hurry.
Anyway I’ll be smashed to smithereens before morning.
I’ll knock on all the doors. I’ll go everywhere you aren’t
Just for the heck of it. Maybe I’ll meet someone along the way.
I’ll bow down to the ground and go headfirst into the threshold a third time.
Two more times makes five. Three more times makes six.
There will be time in jail.
It’s hard to lie here. Would that I had the strength to leave
Or go down or back away from the brink a bit,
If only a meter, to sit down and have a sit and a smoke,
Maybe to give up the ghost, maybe to catch my breath.
Relax, it’s not always easy with me.
I’m not who I am. I’m still far away.
I’m down below, off to the side. I’m on the very brink.

June 1987, Omsk

Photo and translation by the Russian Reader