The hand of fate, the hand of Moscow
clenches my wrist too tight all night
until it’s white, until it’s blue
and feels completely dead inside,
powerless over the weightless matches
and unlit cigarette, as well
as over this whole saving stretch of
reality, and life itself.
The Stone Guest’s muscled arm protrudes
from high up, where the shoulder-boards
loom perilously in the clouds
through the balcony’s open door.
Argus, the old imperial guard
Whose heavy steps I hear approaching,
Arrives to discipline me hard
For pacifism and army dodging.
Unable to cross myself, I die.
A shoulder star, five points from hell,
Unblinking, stares me in the eye…
O Donna Anna, my love, farewell!
Translated from the Russian by Philip Nikolayev
Dennis Novikov, now recognized as a major poet in Russia, was born and lived chiefly in Moscow, but also spent several years in England and Israel. The intonations of his lyric verse have influenced numerous Russian poets. Novikov attended the Literary Institute of the Writer’s Union (Russia’s top creative writing program) and was the youngest member of the prominent Almanac group in the 1990s, which also included the poets Sergey Gandlevsky, Alexander Soprovsky, D. A. Prigov, Lev Rubinshtein, Viktor Koval, and Timur Kibirov. Four volumes of his poetry appeared in his lifetime, the second with an enthusiastic afterword by Joseph Brodsky. His collected poems are Viza (“The Visa”, edited by Felix Chechik (Voymega, Moscow, 2007)). An annotated volume of Novikov’s complete works, Reka – Oblaka (“River, Clouds”), was published by Voymega in 2019. His poems are translated into English by Philip Nikolayev with the exclusive permission of the estate of Dennis Novikov.