O, Moscow, Tatar sack of gold:
obedient and cunning,
boyar’s beard, son-of-a-bitch,
matchmaker, drunk in the morning.
Half-tsar, half-khan, half city,
half village, she’s my motley
fool, my boor: cruel, like a beast,
and forever a beauty.
Beloved mother, time-tested friend,
long-armed like your prince,
and like a leech, insatiable:
snap!—and Novgorod’s finished—
snap!—and everything’s hers—Kurils
to Vilnius—she’s gotten fat!—
big shot Peter gave way to her:
damn! mother mine, you cut a wide swath!
Takes every demon at his word—
doesn’t believe in tears:
Magdalene, Katyusha Maslova,
wide open to Heaven. And Earth.
That’s why she’s the capital—
like the pot, communal.
My poor one, my maternity ward,
my madhouse, my table, my own.
… God-given, like summer lightning,
created, like a star,
my own beloved capital city,
my very own golden horde.
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.