And the motherland, as always, stands alone,
and she has so many of us, too many….
And if from the depths you look up at her,
you see that, for us, God’s closer than she is.

And we’re not there, where you search for us:
it makes no sense to search our iron coffin—
fulfilling the final order that was given,
we and all our crew ascended to Heaven.

… Such a death, where there aren’t even bones,
such a life, where there’s no spark of hope….
Russia, keep your children safe, or else
you’ll be left in this world all alone.

Those aren’t rivers that flow to the ocean—
what empties now in the ocean is grief.
Look on the map, it will never diminish…
the Barents has become the biggest sea.

*The Kursk submarine was lost in the Barents Sea on August 12, 2000, the result of an onboard explosion. All 118 hands and officers perished as Russia refused all offers of international assistance; evidence was found during recovery of the submarine that at least 24 men survived the explosion and later died of suffocation.

Translated from the Russian by Katherine E. Young


Inna Kabysh is the author of eight collections of poetry. Her first collection, Lichnye trudnosti, was awarded the 1996 Pushkin Prize of the Alfred Toepfer Fund (Hamburg, Germany); she has also won the 2005 Anton Delwig Prize; the 2014 Moskovsky schet Prize; the 2016 Anna Akhmatova Prize; and the 2016 Deti Ra Prize. Individual poems have appeared in English translation in Tupelo Quarterly, Trafika Europe, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Subtropics, and many others. A digital chapbook for the iPad, Two Poems, appeared in 2014, while Blue Birds and Red Horses appeared in 2018. Several of Kabysh’s poems have been made into short films by Russian and American directors; many have been set to music.

Katherine E. Young is the author of Day of the Border Guards, 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist, and two chapbooks. She is the translator of Farewell, Aylis by Azerbaijani political prisoner Akram Aylisli, named one of 2018’s “Eleven Groundbreaking Works” by Words Without Borders, as well as Blue Birds and Red Horses and Two Poems, both by Inna Kabysh. Her translations of Russian-language authors have appeared in Asymptote, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The White Review, The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry, and 100 Poems about Moscow: An Anthology, winner of the 2017 Books of Russia award in Poetry; several of her translations have been made into short films. Young was named a 2015 Hawthornden fellow (Scotland) and a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow. From 2016–2018 she served as the inaugural poet laureate for Arlington, VA.

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