Back in the USSR

By the rivers of victorious atheism,
on the banks the Rybinsk Reservoir,
there we sat and wept, yea, when we remembered Zion.
We hung our village harps
upon the pussy willows of that land,
among the hanged.
We were questioned there,
by the nurturers of human souls
who had carried us away captive,
about the lyrics of our songs, and they said:
“Sing us some of those songs of Zion.”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in the hypophrygian sixth mode of the Octoechos
upon the dead waters in a strange land?
We remember neither the tune nor the words,
only the pericope headings.
If I forget thee Jerusalem (I forget),
let the Lord forget the actions of my hands (may He forget, forget)!
Let my tongue cleave
to the roof of my mouth (and it cleaves, sticks, is braced to it)
if I do not remember thee (I won’t),
if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy (there is
no more joy, none at all,
only stupor and torpor)!
Remember, O Lord, the children of the USSR
and remind them, who said on the day of Jerusalem’s destruction:
“Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof,
for the time will come when it will rise
and glorify its executioners!”
And o thou unfortunate daughter of the USSR,
angry prophetess, confident
and so inexorably accurate,
happy shall he be that rewardeth thee
as thou hast served us.
Happy shall he be that rewardeth us,
who have done a million times more evil
Happy shall he be who seizeth
the idols of your mausolea
and smasheth them on hard stones!
And who also smasheth along with them
us, children of that captivity,
now long grown old.

Translated from the Russian by Philip Nikolayev


Sergey Kruglov was born in 1966 in Krasnoyarsk. He lives in Siberia and serves as an Orthodox priest in Minusinsk. He is author of the poetry collections Taking the Serpent from the Cross, Scribal, Folk Songs, Nathan, Zerkaltse, Maranafa, Lazarev Spring, The Queen of the Sabbath and several books of church journalism published in Russia and abroad. He is winner of the Andrei Bely Prize in poetry (2008), the Moscow Score and Antologia prizes, and columnist for the Internet publication Orthodoxy and Peace. In 2013–2016 he was writer and presenter of modern Russian poetry, Poetry, the Movement of Words, on the Russian show Radio Culture.

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