Song

1

The last hour has been scheduled
For a forthcoming night.
You’ll ask, “Couldn’t this be avoided?”
Alas, what can I do, mate?

Before the lights go out,
Be sure to embrace action,
Till pompous speeches start to spout
In every direction.
2

Only memories of childhood
Can hope to cheer us up
Against the bitter orphanhood
That overfills the cup.

Much must be forgotten for
The sake of a new beginning,
So you may live forevermore
And answer for everything.
3

There is no truth of text,
Only the way itself has truth.
Only depending on this or that context
Can we know the right path to choose.

So may you, just as in the past,
Live on in this big world
And meet your death, if die you must,
The way you have deserved.

Translated from the Russian by Philip Nikolayev

*

Born in 1947, Lev Rubinstein was a major figure of Moscow Conceptualism and the unofficial Soviet art scene of the 1970s and 1980s. While working as a librarian, he began using catalogue cards to write sequential texts. He described his “note-card poems,” as a “hybrid genre” that “slides along the edges of genres and, like a small mirror, fleetingly reflects each of them, without identifying with any of them.” His work was circulated through samizdat and underground readings in the “unofficial” art scene of the sixties and seventies, finding wide publication only after the late 1980s. Now among Russia’s most well-known living poets, Rubinstein lives in Moscow and writes cultural criticism for the independent media. His books in English translation include Here I Am (Glas, 2001), Catalogue of Comedic Novelties (UDP, 2004), and Thirty-Five New Pages (UDP, 2011). In Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties (UDP, 2014), his note-card poems appear in their entirety for the first time.

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