A Polite War
It is no longer possible to deny it: it was a war.
Not a youth festival, but a war.
Not the thick literary journals, but a war.
Not sex, rock-n-roll or a steak cooked rare, but a war.
When the enemy won’t succumb, they dance a tango with him,
They recite emotional verses to him,
They feed him chicken drumsticks with a crunchy crust,
They walk him along the sea beach, hold his hand gently.
“Look, enemy, how beautiful the world is!” they whisper softly.
And the enemy, his shame awakened, realizes
That there is no war, that it’s been nothing but his own sad
Paranoia, while the world is fragile and tender –
And he stretches his unarmed arms toward it.
The war is over. The thing we nearly missed was the war.
Translated from the Russian by Philip Nikolayev
Vitaly Pukhanov was born in 1966 in Kiev, Ukraine. He has served as prose editor of the magazine October and from 2003 to 2015 was executive secretary of the Youth Literary Award Debut, and from 2019, is director of the award Poetry. He has been published in the magazines Air, Banner, Continent, New World, and October. He is author of the poetry collections Wooden Garden (1995), Fig Fruit (2003); and School of Mercy (2014). He was winner of the Anthologia award (2014) and a special award from Moscow Score (2014).