Ainsley Morse

Dmitri Alexandrovich Prigov

Simon Schuchat

My Russia, from SOVIET TEXTS, Dmitri Alexandrovich Prigov– translated by Simon Schuchat with Ainsley Morse

From MY RUSSIA (1990)


One time we were going somewhere at night
When suddenly from somewhere a horror came out
A strange, incomprehensible, absolute horror
Its voice did tickle us, reedy and pig-like
Within it twittered our old Russian fables
Oh, those dark fables, mysterious as whirlpools
O Lord! Lord, we are ready to receive the enemy
Look, look Lord, we’re ready as snow
O Lord, here we are, Lord, we are prepared
O Lord


When the elephants of another world
Like black, bubbling Narzan water
From some funereal banquet
Come rolling by – I, like some
Disheveled Tarzan
Will question them, somewhat disheveled
Where ya from, fellas? From Russia


I went out to walk in the garden
But nothing came of it
I went out and again
It didn’t work
Coming out into the graden
I screamed: Holy Mother!
Take me, take me out into the garden
Lead me


I had a dream: at first all was
Like it always is, and I died
Or it died, and all went drifting
All became wild, insane
That is, it seemed like pure mania
And, gathering my strength, recalled:
Hey, I fell asleep while out in Germany
But then I’ve woken up in Russia
And I compelled myself with insane force
To once again in Germany
Wake up
For now


Now let’s talk about the mice
Of which Russia has a billion
Or maybe it’s already more than
A billion – but, quiet now!
She comes out alone, the mouse
And you look right into her face
Also alone


For a brief interval of time
I was famous in my country
When, with my immortal name
On their lips
Girls came to me
And said: bright falcon!
Take us, lead us! And it was clear to me
That I, once again, was mortal


In the evening sky the dawn burns away
It claws at the heart with its reds and lilacs
The twilight is playing with a feminine tree
Its trunk has been twisted so marvelously

Somehow in all this one feels something
Like a supplication or just China
Something that will save us, something native
Only the answer comes: Get lost!
We hear it


I sleep above Russia and still I simply cannot
Fall asleep, and like an angel of the covenant
Dividing me, this was revealed to me:
Freedom’s free spine by freedom is
Broken for sure


The gloom of an autumn day
Drizzle slapping on the roof
O Lord, I have
Nothing, not even a little mouse

I destroyed and killed them all
Crazed, amid Soviet life
Itself quite crazy
In an amulet I managed to sew up
The little slender children’s bones
Also crazy


I will return soon to my Russia
Where everyone’s been ruined by something
But I, but I will not contribute
Even though I have been asked to
Life itself asked me
But no, no, I will not contribute
It’s not my job to execute by firing squad unhappy souls in prisons of morality

From SOVIET TEXTS by Dmitri Alexandrovich Prigov, translated from Russian by Simon Schuchat with Ainsley Morse, Ugly Duckling Presse, 2020

Dmitri Alexandrovich Prigov (1940-2007) is one of the most important figures in the literary history of the late Soviet and early post-Soviet era, and is considered one of the founders of Moscow Conceptualism. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, his work was acknowledged with several awards, including, in 2002, the Boris Pasternak Prize.

Simon Schuchat (1954 - ) was raised in DC, and made the acquaintance of Michael Lally and the Mass Transit poets at age 15, becoming the youngest author published by Some Of Us Press when his book, Blue Skies, was released in 1973. He attended the University of Chicago and published the journal Buffalo Stamps before moving to New York in 1975 and becoming part of the St. Mark’s downtown writing scene and becoming associated with the third generation of New York School poets. Schuchat was also directly involved in small press publishing; he edited the 432 Review and founded Caveman. His poetry titles include: At Baoshan (Coffee House Press, 1987), Light and Shadow (Vehicle Editions, 1977), and All Shook Up (Fido Productions (1977). From 1978 to 1981, he taught at Fudan University in Shanghai, then studied East Asian Studies at Yale and Harvard. He was a State Department Foreign Service Officer for over twenty-five years, from 1985 to 2011, serving in Beijing, Moscow, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and other places. He has translated poetry and prose from Mandarin and Russian into English, including works by Lu You and D.A. Prigov. His translation of Chinese poet Hai Zi's verse play "Regicide" was recently published in Hong Kong.