Dreading bullets or words not an ounce, When alive, I was not weak or sickly And no regular mold did I fit! But right after my death was announced I was set on a pedestal quickly, And they wrote ďAchillesĒ on it. I canít shake off this flesh, made of stone, Canít extract from a pedestal granite This Achilles, this world-famous heel, Since my ribs and my scull - every bone Are held deadly by concrete - God damn it! Down my spine only cramps do I feel! When alive, broad and wide were my shoulders - Catchíem flying! SOS! Was I cut by the molders After dying! I am wedged in a narrow frame, Boy, it pinches! And the span of my shoulders came Down to inches. My smart relatives couldnít be faster In arranging a posthumous mold Of my face seconds after my death. But my Tartar cheekbones off that plaster Were erased by some hand, rude and bold, No one knows who did this, I guess. Didnít crave it, or rave, even dreaming, Of that fate, nasty, rotten and goddamn, To be head of the dead rank and file... But the white plaster surface was beaming With cold light, and the tombstone boredom Radiated from my toothless smile. When alive, I would never be either Tricked or cheated, Nobody would measure me with a Standard meter. But when casting a mask, all the sizes Were then taken, I was measured with calipers by the Undertaker. Then a monument (smack in a year!) With great pomp they would open there As if proving - Iíd fit their bills! Endless crowds would gather to hear How my popular songs filled the air, Being played from the magnetized reels. Mighty lights changed that night into morning, Speakers blew up that orderly silence With my tunes that the country had learned. But my voice, gruff and husky, and roaring, By the latest achievements of science Into pleasant falsetto was turned. I could not say a word, wrapped in shrouds Canít be speaking! Yet from tapes these castrating wild shouts I was shrieking! They pulled down the shrouds - Iím diminished Trimmed and quiet... Would you need me like this at the finish Of my riot? The Black Friarís footsteps I remembered And I thought: ďWill I give them some trouble Just by walking a little around?Ē Folks dispersed as my spine I unbent and As I pulled out my legs from that marble, And the rubble would crumble aground. Leaning forward, Iím awful, Iím naked; Scraggy legs cannot hold me - Iíve fallen, But I still will continue to strive! With stiff muscles Iíve managed to make it! And with lips which are bleeding and swollen I have wheezed out: ďYou see, Iím alive!Ē
               
© George Tokarev. Translation, 2001
Edited by Robert Titterton