Streets of Kiev – Stephen Oliver

after Osip Mandelstam

In Red Square, giant plasma screens loom blank
and wall-eyed, there’s no news today. The Kremlin

thug needs time to think. He never counts his
losses, pays no heed to them. His mongoloid eyes

turn unperturbedly to the southwest. Any day now,
he will perform the prisyadka in Khreshchatyk Street.

Under the black belt moon, he cocks one leg,
a kick to the solar plexus, to the groin, to the temple.

Pectorals flex, Abs ripple. His favourite cocktail,
Polonium-210, he serves up to those who dare oppose.

His expression resembles that of a firing squad,
this former KGB analyst calculates the odds quiet

as frost at midnight, his every move accounted for:
pieces of tibia, femur, cranium, each precious object

finds a place on his chessboard. Any day now,
he will perform the prisyadka in Andreevsky Spusk.


Poet’s note:
Prisyadka: the squat-and-kick move that belongs to the Ukrainian ‘Cossack Dance’, known as Kazatsky. Moscow-based translator/editor, Max Nemtsov, originally from Vladivostok, translated the poem into Russian. First published in Beton (Serbia),  Cardinal Points (USA), The Age of Translation Anthology (Russia), Spintongues (Russia), Translit (Russia), 3Quarks Daily (USA). The poem also exists as a video poem on YouTube recorded and read in Russian by the translator, Max Nemtsov: