On This World and the Next


Regina Derieva

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 115 in 2008.

Translated by Ilya Bernstein


Sleepless sorrow. A dark swarm of visions.
I have read the list of deadmen halfway through
And I saw death: with a savage scythe,
It was mowing down life in the middle of a plain.

Not one flower on this field, not one bee.
Only cinders and thistles.
What am I to do with poor Ossian?
How can I get some kind of answer?

Yesterday’s earth: death in your eye sockets,
Black conscription, bottomless tombs.
And the heart whines as never before
And rings, like a bell that has cracked into pieces.


Sometimes snow leans on the left foot
And sometimes it leans on the right:
For a poet who has lost his freedom
This actually means very little.

Was it not he that leaned down to the impoverished
Soil, and did not the soil take his measure
For a nameless page, for a thousand
Snow-white lilac blossoms overhead, falling?