Survival Skills

You say Russia? What about her,
with her prison camps and torture?
It’s for nothing that Russian folk
overthrew the Mongol Yoke.
Salamanders in black ski-masks
make approach with expert stealth,
violating homes and cities,
bringing terror spiked with death.
Knowing it’s a time of bandits,
people go about their business.
Hardly anyone resists.
They repeat: “God’s court exists!”
Yet it’s still a place for will-
power and knowing how to sail
between charybdises and scyllas
while making tracks from worse godzillas.
Home, at work, in grief, in love
We perfect survival skills.
Life in Russia is a form of
Art and science. Like nowhere else.

Translated from the Russian by Philip Nikolayev


Tatyana Shcherbina is a poet, essayist, journalist, prose writer, and translator. In 1989–1994, she served as a staff writer for Radio Liberty. Founder and chief editor of Estet magazine (1996), until 1986, she published poems and prose in samizdat (author’s books, publications in Mitin magazine). Her first book of poems, Zero Zero, was published in 1991. She also wrote poetry in French; L’ame deroutee won a prize from the National Center for Literature of France in 1993. She translated many modern French poets and compiled the anthology Modern French Poetry (1995). Her poems are translated into many languages, her books in English are published in the USA (The Score of the Game); Great Britain (Life Without); and New Zealand (An Offshoot of Sense). She has participated in many international poetry festivals (Holland, Canada, France, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Italy, Great Britain, Greece), and she performs poetry readings and lectures internationally.


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