To One Born in Crimea by Gennady Katsov, translated by Alex Cigale


On a day in February the Evpatoria beach
Is pummeled by a heavy, ice-cold wave
And a seagull, frozen still like a mannequin,
Issues amidst the sands its drawn-out moaning.

To our right, the entrance to the sprawling park.
The tram departs at midday for Lake Moynaki,
Something the old Tatar selling you kozinaki
Hasn’t found the time to expound upon yet.

On the Embankment, a brass orchestra plays
Something in the spirit of Viennese waltzes
And one of the concession stands stands vacant
That in summer is staked with a barrel of kvas.

Also, standing empty on the cliffside, the Nesting Place
Of the Swallow castle and the winter Livadiisky Palace,
likewise unvisited, gapes like a house that was forsaken
in the “English style,” without a word of goodbye.

The road to Simeiz village, untended, is in disrepair,
And the vizier will not, in departing, toss a coin
To the waves in hopes of returning; the eternal breeze
Teases neither sea nor boat, fishing hook, line, sinker.

All of Crimea remains desolate as long as you
Have not been born into it, free still of the burden
Of that memory without expiration date,
Of the reality of the predestined Soviet Union.

A score years more will pass and on the ice
We will suffer yet another loss to the Czechs,
And in the city garden you will hear crying,
In distant Yalta, the inconsolable Chekhov.
A long-time Russian print and online (Print Organ, Metro, RUNYweb .com), radio (WMNB) and television (RTN) journalist, observer of both popular and high culture, documentarian of the Russian émigré community in America, Gennady Katsov returned to poetry with a book-length project of ekphrastic poems Slovosphera. Selections from that project were presented in readings at the New York Public Library, Chelsea Art Museum, and Columbia University’s Harriman Center. His newest books are Between Floor and Ceiling and 365 Days Around the Sun. Born in 1956 in Yevpatoria (Crimea), Katsov was one of the organizers of the legendary, unsanctioned, perestroika-era Moscow “Poetry Club” (1986). He immigrated to America in 1989. Alex Cigale’s other translations of his work are in Blue Lyra Review, Cimarron Review, Painters and Poets, and Verse Junkies.
Alex Cigale‘s own English-language poems have appeared in Colorado, Green Mountains, North American, Tampa, and The Literary Reviews, and online in Drunken Boat and McSweeney’s. His translations from the Russian can be found in Cimarron Review, Literary Imagination, Modern Poetry in Translation, New England Review, PEN America, TriQuarterly, Two Lines, and World Literature Today. He is on the editorial boards of Mad Hatters’ Review, Plume, St. Petersburg Review, and Verse Junkies. From 2011 until 2013, he was an Assistant Professor at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He is a 2014-2015 NEA Translation Fellow for his work on Mikhail Eremin and is the editor of the Spring 2015 Russia Issue of the Atlanta Review.