For the first third life was sweet, my Twenty years on easy street I played it by the book; Always busy, ever carefree, I just let the current bear me where I chanced to look. I thought there is my reward now - After all I donít need oars now or to use my palms. I was pestered by mosquitoes, Wasps and ticks, all the blood-eaters, but came to no harm. To begin with I heard yelps from People wanting me to help them; from the banks theyíd shout. But poor beggars, Iíd not heed them, Iíd lie stupefied by mead and nearly passing out. If a bend made me unsteady Or I capsized in an eddy it would be all right. With my boots off, with them next on, In the water my reflection filled me with delight. As the banks float by my boat still I drink mead to soothe my throat till Iíve too much inside. In a flash Iím not alone now For I see an aged crone now sitting at my side. As Iím finding it astounding Mist comes down and I come round in somewhere death would be, And the hagís a gross and vast thing, In my ear she bursts out laughing - foul behometh, she! So I scream - I make no sound though - I see badly and I fear so much that Iím struck dumb; In the wind I feel Iím swaying... "Who are you?" I hear her saying: "Iím the Heavy One! Donít make crosses, mutter dirges - Donít expect the Holy Virginís going to save the day, For if you lose the oars and wheel too I, the Heavy One, will steal you - thatís my usual way!" In the dark I seek the roadway, I drink mead but in a slow way - by a hundred grams. Thereís no chance she will fall dormant For in front of me she storms and her great footsteps slam. Through the undergrowth she flounders And with so much lard around her she begins to pant. But although sheís out of breath she Will still take you somewhere deathly, heavy elephant! Then towards us comes a breathing Crippled-legged, crooked being with a wily guise. She cries: "Though youíre by the void now I will save you, my poor boy, now, I will dry your eyes." "What on earth are you?" I ask her; She says: "I can lift a cart for Iím the Crooked One, And although my back is bent and Iíve crossed eyes and twisted claw hands Iíll help you, my son!" While Iím pouring out a measure, "Save me, Crooked One", I beg her, "Iím tied up I say! I will pour you out a basin And your crookedness Iíll straighten - just take me away!" "As for you, you bitchís daughter, Go on, take a sip, it ought to help to soothe your nerves. Youíll forget me for a short time; In the harem with your outline you will be the first." And with that the two old crones dive On the mead vat, then they imbibe till their minds go blank. So I hide behind the boulders, Edge back, look behind my shoulders till I reach the bank. With two strokes I reach the middle Where the waterís smooth and peaceful - Thatís a job well done. Let them perish from their bevvies, My two fates: the one thatís heavy and the crooked one. Thatís how someoneís wicked schemes, their Spiteful acts behind the scenes were planned to lay me low. I was star-crossed, well and truly, I was dragged away, more fool me, as the current flows. I thought life was made to please me; Iíd not row; Iíd take it easy - what a clever one! With a whimper off they trotted; My two fates: the one thatís knotted and the heavy one!
© Margaret & Stas Porokhnya. Translation, 2007