Transitions №6

Author: Lora Beloivan

Translated by Max Nemtsov


Where there’s that “Docker” fer kids now
They had the loony bin on the shore
Moved it away
‘Cause those loonies got themselves drown’t
Now they have that “Docker” camp fer kids
Those kids—
They dun drown so much

Me nunky used to be a super fer a loony bin
Not this one, the faraway one
On the other side of Ussuriysk
Only he quit very fast
‘Cause those loonies brought him to ruin, he sez
They sit on a log until they have a smoke
And dun go dig a hole
You give them a fag and only then they go and dig
So he bought them smokes outta his own pocket
Two cartons each day
Or three
Those loonies sure smoke a lot

And there’s another loony bin in Nezhino
One day we were goin’ by with lads
A long time ago
To taiga, fer the nuts
The woods there are full of nuts
But only in the fall, not summer
And those nutcases stand there
All five hunnert of them
On the other side of the fence
And salute with their tongues loll’t out
Like this, blah blah blah
And, mind you, they salute you
All five hunnert of them
I sez, Why’s that all of a sudden?
And the lads explain’t, That’s a loony bin, innit

I din’t know that


And here’s one sayin’ to me,
Natty, you’d better marry
I have, she sez, a woman of my acquaintance
A good one and with a kid, too
Lemme, she sez, introduce you to her
At first, I sez, Go on
And then,
Nah, well not yet, no
Gotta do the repairs first, there’s hell at home
No whitewashin’ fer five years or more
Can’t seem to find the time fer it
I’ve never been to the city fer ten years
Nor had a swim in the bay here
Fer two years
And before, me goin’ ev’ry day
Catchin’ those shellfish and eatin’ them
Used to splash their meat with seawater like feckity-feck
And bring it home
And mix it with onions on the fryin’ pan
Ev’ry day I caught meself some shellfish
And never had a sickness in me life
Now only me leg hurts here a bit

But as you marry
And go along the street with her
All that Sukhanka crowd crawls out
Gapin’ and
Pointin’ their fingers
And sayin’, Natty, fer feck’s sake
She’s doin’ that thing
When they take it in their mouth
Me friend tells me,
You, he sez, Natty, is a feckin’ eejit
This, he sez, is a fashion with them women these days
All of them do it
It’s the times
But I dun wanna marry
A local one anyways


I call Valka the queen of the cemet’ry
There’s not a single day
When she’s not feedin’ there
It’s handy
Fer she lives right across from it
Candies and cookies
All go to her
Fer some it’s just after-bites but a whole lunch fer her
I dunno where she finds herself drinks
Dead ones dun exactly pour it out
Altho’ she’s the queen
But only I call her that

She smokes like a locomotive
But the thing is, as you give her a fag
She dun smoke it all at once
But breaks it out and shakes it into a jar
Only when she has half a jar of ‘baccy
She comes to me and sez, Natty, will you gimme a newspaper?
Well here you are

And she takes a whole page if the paper’s local
Or half a page if it’s territorial
Then she spits on its edges and swish-swish
She has a roll-up so big she takes it in both hands
And she smokes it whole in an hour
I, she sez, dun smoke a lot, only once a week

She used to have five kids, all of them loopy
Some of them went to school but mostly eejits
At first, she used to have an husband
Who used to go in kersey boots all year round
Pitied by ev’ryone so hard-workin’ was he
Almost never drank a-tall
So he went to Mirny once to moonlight
And never came back
Found hisself a woman there
And wears a tie now
Fer his woman bought him a tie
So he’s been livin’ with her
Fer fifteen years now

That woman, they sez, thinks the world of him
Fer he wears a feckin’ tie


As I went home
I fell meself three times
The first one was so-so, I lived
But then it was on the corner
The water pump leaked there all day long
It was all frozen
As if I dun even know what like
A moon or a clusterfeck
And there I fell meself again
Hit me elbow
Mercy it wasn’t me head
And the third time I fell there again
As I stood meself up
I mean I stood meself up as I fell meself a second time
And fell meself again
Almost broke me leg
Couldn’t stand meself up fer long
It was dark
An no-one goin’ ‘round anymore

We had that happen’t here once
A fella was goin’ home
In the blizzard
And it was dark
And no-one goin’ ‘round again
So he fell hisself and broke him a leg
And he lay there long
On the account of no-one goin’ ‘round
And it bein’ dark
So he scream’t and scream’t
But no-one heard him
So they had to cut his leg off in the hospital
He hobbl’t on his crutches some time after that
And then he hit the bottle and died

It’s dark at night here and slippery
As if on the moon


I’ll be fifty some odd the other day
Last winter it was fifty even

Celebrate’t it

It means ten more years and what—
I’ll be the same age as me da?

I’ll be feck’t


Those ones used to breed pigs, about a hunnert of them
Less now
Two truckloads of shite instead of five like before
Their calf got lost last summer
The whole village look’t fer it fer three days
Fat chance
The twats could’ve stolen it
Looks more like it

As sure as eggs are eggs

When those ones’ son got hisself hanged
The whole village was feck’t sideways
Six years ago
On the account of one slutty slattern
God have mercy on meself
She wasn’t yet graduated
But he came back from the Army already
I wish ev’rything were as simple as that, when it comes to it
Feckity-feck a rope over those timbers and that’s it
God have mercy on meself
Feckity-feck and that’s all she wrote
Fer almost no reason a-tall

The love, excuse meself, above and all that stuff
No-one still believes it
Lit’rally they dun
He went to the attic and feckity-feck
There’s no other way that cookie crumbles —
I was feck’t sideways, so am I

Those ones dun have any other kids to spare
Only the pigs
And a number of them cows
Some fifteen, give or take five
And two pieces of dogs they have, those Rottweilers —
A mother and a son to spare
And some chickens of course
Good thing if those eggs are yer own

Them chickens dun eat a lot
Sometimes you dun have to feed them a-tall
And their calf, it sure got stolen by them Chapayevo twats
As sure as eggs are eggs
Over there, only the cunts live
They dump their garbage in our woods

But before, it used to be a rich state farm, Chapayevo
Ev’ryone wanted to live there


Feckin’ smash

No-one wants to do any mashin’ these days
They now want only “Fur Seal” car window degreaser
One fur seal fer twenty five rubles
This small

Ev’ryone now wants all inclusive

One fur seal is good
Two are even better
But if you consume three, in a month there’s game over
Fer you, Natty
That’s why I never drink them
I dun drink a-tall
Almost not ever these days

But whole Sukhanka goes to the houseware store
Fer them fur seals
Too lazy to do any mashin’
With them fur seals, innit
A cat in gloves catches no fish
That’s me opinion—
If you like some dancin’, you should like some mashin’

Before, I’d almost never used to drink neat alcohol
Home brew is another kettle of fish
Or some mash
The mash is good in the mornin’
A cup of it
No need for the second, one’s enough

Depends on the sort of mash


Or, the other time, we did some mashin’ with Seryoga
Not the one whose cat shites at home
The other Seryoga
Put a whole can of mash up
Turned out good
It brewed there fer a month
If you do it with oil, gases won’t come out
And the whole process goes inside
Very softly —
Oh wow

Gotta open carefully then
With no shakin’ a-tall
The main thing’s not to shake it
Or it tears yer head off with its lid
Or yer hands up to yer balls

Anyways, a bottle of oil went there

Seryoga is a strong fella, a hunnert and five kilos or he’s lyin’
Looks to be even more
He’s fat as a bull
I, he sez, will do the openin’
You step aside

I did
So Seryoga goes twonk-twonk
And pop goes the lid
Looks like it unhook’t
But now that can starts hoppin’ and crawlin’
I yells, Seryoga, fer feck’s sake
The can runs away
Like a livin’ thing it does
And quickly

Sure we caught it
But it all got shook up inside
And it’s bad if you shake it up

The fountain pushed up
A pity, that, fer we’ve been expectin’ that mash fer a month
So Seryoga leaned on the lid with all his weight
But got hisself threwed up
The mash was so strong
He yells at meself, Natty, lie on me
I can’t, he sez, hold it anymore

As we were catchin’ the can, Seryoga’s wife
I dun even know where she came from
Prob’ly came back to the shed from her veggie patch
And like, oopsy
She stands and looks at us like a fool
And we yells
Seryoga’s on the can, doggy-style
And meself on Seryoga

Well it sure’s not right fer me to say it
Seein’ this anyone would think hell knows what

There’s no feckin’ mind on women no way


There was a time when I drank it
And there were wonders

I drop’t in at me neighbor’s one morning
In June
The sun was up
The dew
I had some need or other

The neighbor was fixin’ hisself a car, a reg’lar busy one
The bonnet was up
Only his legs and his ass stuck outside
Hey, I sez, Peter-o

And he sez from under that bonnet,
Go to the veggie patch, there’s a blue cylinder there
And a cup on the tree stump near
You’ll see it

So I went to the patch
Sure I saw the cylinder at once
Tall and blue in those tomato plants
Hard to miss it
The one for oxygen

Now the proper tap was there
And a cup
I found it at once
Stuck it under the tap
Turn’t it
—A champers
A neat champers
With that pressure and the smell
There like a real aroma

Drank it
Sat meself on a log
Felt good
Lit meself a fag
Thought about some thing or other
And just wanted to shake some ashes from me fag
But hey — it’s night all around meself
And the stars are in the skies
Feck’s sake, I thinks

So I crawl’t away like real quiet
And ask’t the neighbor the next morning,
What is that mash you have there?
What did you mix in?
And he sez, Oh, the usual—
Only water, sugar, yeast there, and a bit of carbide


Grand it was, with the baths, mind
Only a fiver but you come all clean
Usually, I go bathe to the brother
Altho’ he lives far, at the Eighth
I’m cleaner than some women, so I am
I wash meself twice a day
At night when I come home
I always wash me feet in a bowl
And the second time, too, in the morning
So they dun smell during the day
And me hands as well, and me mug
But me mug and me hands are the first to wash
And I keep a separate towel for me mug
And another one separate, too
So, the brother — that happens Saturdays
Fer he lives far

There used to be an emergency dump there
With no valve a-tall, mind
And if you have a boiler you should always
Have an emergency dump, just in case
Some fecker then bought the entire foundation here
And built hisself a sauna and a massage parlor
They built it fast, so they did
But that sauna is a sin and a shame
You’ve gotta go with girls to the sauna
Before, it used to be like, a day fer women and day fer us
Separate with women
It’s rotten without the baths, mind, and the brother’s too far
Especially in winter
He’s me cousin actually

There’s no way to control the pressure when get hot
They used to play fer money in the boiler room
Baldy Oleg and meself, we went by one day
After the third shift in the coalmine
And it suddenly blew the feck up
Well, we stood to watch
And we see the bath-house’s chimney
Flyin’ straight at us
Baldy sez to me, Dun stand you jerk
Run, he sez, like feck
And I sez to him, too, to feckin’ run
So it fell back on the baths

No-one survived apart from those four dead ones
Three corpses in the boiler room
And another one in the coal storage
Buried in the coal
At first they thought about those three
But there were four on their paper
They kept score fer the four of them
The cops counted

So they looked fer one, just in case
Saw his feet, they stuck from all that coal
The boiler’s a very dangerous thing
If you dun have an emergency dump

If you crap yer pressure up, yer chimney falls out

In the bath, there were no-one inside
Not a single patient
On the account that it was night
So it all happened nine years ago
Me da wasn’t dead yet
Altho’ it’d be a hunnert times worse
If Baldy and meself just stood still there

We’d be crushed like cunts, fer it aimed straight at us


Used to be a house over there
The foundation still stands
Where the pear tree yon, you can see stones from here
The pillar
Look it
Still standin’

Where there’s that pillar stands there
Used to be a cow shed
They pull’t it down fast, so they did
Fer the firewood
But the house itself stood fer long
And the foundation’s still there

Three brothers lived there
The elder one, Seryoga and Peter-o
At first they had the mother
Then she died
Or got lost somehow
I dun remember

But remember their dog
The mean one it was

They drank, sure
So they did
The elder argued with Seryoga
All the time
War all the time since they were tiny tots
The was a day when Seryoga grabbed a pitchfork
Ran it through his brother
‘Cause he had that strength
But got hisself scare’t
And carry’t the body to hide
Where there’s that lake
In a bore pit
Threw it into that pit nearby
Got back
Clean’t the pitchfork and went on drinkin’

Peter-o was asleep by that time

But the elder one just lay there fer a bit
And dint die
Got out of the bore pit and went home

As Seryoga saw him
He went out of the house
And never came back
He got lost hisself
Left fer some place or hang’t hisself
Just disappear’t

The elder one was sick fer long
Natty he was call’t
Like me
I dint wanta tell
Knock on wood
God forbid
It’s not a bowl of cherries to hang on a pitchfork

So he went on and died like that
All sick
Peter-o dint quite catch it at first
When he lay there and lay
Until he started to turn
On account of that bein’ summer

Peter-o buried him like this
Took a pig trough
Put the body in
And nail’t with some planks on top
Where, he sez, I’ll get meself money
So they carried it in a wheelbarrow
To put into the dirt
Altho’ in the cemet’ry, mind

Peter-o drank and drank
They all of them did
All three of them at first
Then he was alone
Still afraid of Seryoga
That he comes back

And Peter-o hisself later
Stoke’t the oven
And pour’t in one too many
With an open ashbox
And close’t damper, the eejit
As they say

And also they say, it was Seryoga
Came back home just that one time

In whole truth
Peter-o saw the entire business
When he woke up
Fer his elder one was sure screamin’ on that pitchfork
Woke him up

And the house got pull’t down

See, Ivan the neighbor
Has the shed made of bricks
Why the feck the good stuff should go to waste
Their house was a strong one
Could’ve stand there fer ages

The floor was rotten tho’
It was no good a-tall


Used to be better in here village
Used to be grand, innit
Now it’s diff’rent
But grand anyways
Altho’ not much
Nah, it’s grand
Worse than before
But not much
Altho’ it may be better

There’s no way to sort it out


In a beeline from the city
It’s not too far to us
Fourteen kilometers across the bay
But only if you sail
If you walk around
It’s farther, so it is
It’s too far to walk
Need a coupla days fer that
Or even three
But if you go across the bay you can see it
The city on that there shore
But not in rainy weather

No feckin’ good to watch it anyways


There that Uncle Nick-o goes
Walkin’, so he does
Maybe he broke hisself his bike down
He lives on October Street
On the shore

There’s no business livin’ on the shore
With all that wind and fog
But many people do
So they do, and then they sez
Some fecks stole all our taters
A no-brainer, that
On account of them livin’ on the shore

Three years ago
Or five
Uncle Nick-o lied in wait
Fer someone dug out his taters
Ev’ry morning by half-a-patch
Turned out it was them city tourists
Sailed up to the shore and feckin’ stole it

Sure he got plenty offended
So he took hisself a shotgun
Loaded it with peas
And wham’t them city tourists from his currant bushes
One had his cheek torn out to red meat
Another one had a piece of ass bit

Served them right
Did you plant those taters? No
So no business of yours to sail here


Used to work for the Tartar
And he had hisself a can of honey in the corner
You come mornings
Stroke up the furnace
Draw yourself a cup of honey from the can
Sit and take yourself a tea
Used to eat a whole cup of honey then
Was healthy like wow, so I was
No illness stuck to me
The honey is very health, so it is
Altho’ they sez, if you eat a three-liter jar in one go
That’s all she wrote
You die and not survive
That’s why them bees die so often
On account of them bein’ so feckin’ small


Hemp is a grand weed
Like ‘baccy only better
I believe it should be allow’t, so do I
Or they should ban feckin’ booze
Used to have lots of it growin’ here

There was a whole field of it growin’
That was even before the cops
There’s a field now at Sukhanka, there all that hemp grew
All the way to the cemet’ry
Smoked on the sly

Ev’ryone dried a bit fer hisself
And no-one grab’t whole lots—
Only fer hisself
Why take all of it
What you need is what you take

So Nunky Grisha comes to me da once
And sez, Why d’you pluck all that hemp?
And me da sez, No I dint
Who did then? Nunky Grisha yells
You, he sez, live close by
But me da never touched that hemp
So they thought a bit and decided that it was the neighbor
So they comes to him
And he feeds his rabbits

With that hemp he feeds them
And those rabbits are already cross-eye’t
But he sez, I dint take that hemp of yours
I, he sez, plucked some grass there in the field
And he shows them his sack
And the sack is full of hemp
He’s a feckin’ rocket scientist
Feedin’ hemp to his rabbits
A friggin’ moron he is
What can you say

Meself, I almost dun smoke long
Feck’s sake, me a grandda already
Shame on me
If someone sez to me granddaughter, Yer grandda smokes hemp
I’ll feckin’ kill him on the spot


And we had ourselves an eejit once here
As he gets drunk
And polishes it up with hemp
He becomes a complete dolt

Same color in winter and summer
That is said about him
So when he was a complete dolt
He took ev’rything off, his clothes, his undies
Ev’rything a-tall
Leaving only his boots on
Took hisself a guitar and
Went a-goin’ through the village

There he goes
Yellin’ all kinds of feckin’ shite
Wavin’ his privates left and right
Bangin’ on that guitar
Like he’s a big theatrical star

Ev’ryone went lookin’ at him

You say something to him later
When he’s back normal already
I dun, he sez, feckin’ care

So they found him like that in a snowdrift
With no undies on, only his boots and a guitar

Feckin’ eejit he was


And we had ourselves another one
Livin’ here in them barracks
He built hisself an airplane with his own hands
No-one believ’t him of course
But he did, dint he
They call’t him a flyer after
But as he built it they all sez
He’s a bloody eejit and oaf
But later
They sez he’s a flyer only
Out of respect

They were Tartars by birth
All their family
Dint drink a-tall

Mornings their granny did herself athletics
Around their barracks
Ev’ry morning
And he was her son
Who was buildin’ an airplane
And he built it
And that airplane took off

That happen’t even before the Army service
They used to have a field at Sukhanka
Where they now have themselves bungalows
But that long ago there were no bungalows
There was the field
Up to the very cemet’ry
So he sat hisself in his airplane and drove across that field
And then he flew up
Ev’ryone yells hurray hurray
They all was joyous fer some reason

And he took off and flew away
And there’s no trace of him
Not a-tall
Fer a long time
Ev’ryone waits and there’s no hisself
Had a smoke
And there’s still no hisself
Could they shoot him down?
The border guards are stationed quite close here
Then we look and see
Him comin’ from the cemet’ry

More like hobblin’ not walkin’
With a stick in his hands
Means he wasn’t shot down

His airplane fell down
Smack on the cemet’ry
The flyer got hisself a broken leg of course
His motor play’t up on him
A technical glitch of course
Later they curse’t him something awful
Fer he crush’t many graves
But they dint beat him, no
There was no beatin’ that time

He treate’t one leg of his fer six months
There was no walkin’ fer him
Only sittin’
So he sat
But it’s borin’, innit
With no drinkin’
On account of him bein’ a Tartar

So he started hisself some wood carvin’
And learn’t it pretty good
The whole village bought his stools from him
Nice ones they were
Me mam even bought one
His leg heal’t already
But he still carv’t and carv’t
So much he forgot to fly

And then all of them went back to their Tartary
On account of them all bein’ Tartars, the whole family
It was borin’ fer them in our places

And they dint need any feckin’ stools fer they sit smack on the floor


Dint have enough sleep last night a-tall
On the account of me house bein’ fer two owners
Used to be four of us but the middle got taken down
After the fire, when it burn’t down
So we arranged it with a bulldozer
And had the whole middle feckin’ demolished
And there on the other porch no-one lives anyways
Used to be a granny there
But she died six years ago or so

Me neighbors are on that side
Valka’s son
Drank all night long last night
But the main thing is that he goes in fer sex
So they get plastered and go aah and ooh
Like swine

Well I dint interrupt them at night
But took meself a stick from me fence in the morning
Come in
And his pans are down
And he’s sleepin’ like that with his nekkid woman
I dint bash the woman fer I dun know her
But I smacked his arse with that stick
Take it from me, take it

So he wakes up and sez to me
Why dint you knock?

I’ll knock you something good, yeah
You dint give me any sleep all night long
You douchebag
And I must come knock-knockin’ to you after that? Fat chance


Me da had hisself a friend
Nunky Andrew
Well not a friend exactly
They just worked together
Went to the same school
Lived side by side

Now then
He had a shite antenna

And there was one who told him,
You, he sez, make yourself a mercury antenna
It will receive good
Ev’rything you want
Even America and pornography

And he told him how

So he made it, innit
Not hard to do
Take a lightbulb
Feck the base out fer awhile
Pour some red mercury into the bulb
Glue the base back with some putty
Attach them contacts
Plug it in and it’s all dacent

The mercury antenna is the best
Receives a thousand channels
No, even more than that
One thing’s shite tho’
The airplanes interfere
When they fly there’s too much noise in signal
Fer three days they interfered like this
But not too much

And on the fourth day, he sat
An American feature film
When the FSB broke his door down
Or the KGB
Nah, it was the FSB already
Or the FSK?
Feck knows
Well, it was like the KGB but military

So they came in, broke the door down
And buste’t the holy crap out of Nunky Andrew

They beats the crap out of him and they sez
Where’s the radar? Where’s the radar?
Feck’s sake, it’s over there, behind the TV set

So they fish’t that lamp out
And went feckin’ agog
Wow, they sez
That’s two kilos of mercury
Where, they sez, did you buy
Two kilos of red mercury, you feckin’ eejit?

Fecking’ eejits yourselves—
That’s what Nunky Andrew told them
I drain’t it from thermometers

Those thermometers with red mercury inside
For the temperature outside

Well those ones beats him fer some more
And let himself go
Nothing to take off him but the mercury
So they took the lamp with them

And Nunky Andrew’s TV again
Started showing shite
Only the news, the weather and the stuff about the wheel of fortune


When I was a miner at the coalmine
We used to have them rats like this there
Lots of rats in the mine a-tall
So they are
Almost like this

But home rats are diff’rent
In the coalmine they’re like this
So they are
If you lie down
And turn your lamp off on your helmet to rest
It will go tramptramptramp
Right on yourself
So it does
‘Cause they weren’t afraid of anyone
Even people
Like this


And as I served in the army, near Chelyabinsk
In 1986
They drove us to an elevator of course
Fer grain
Well and there were them rats there
I hant seen ever before — to be so many
And it was the drought then
So the foreman sez, We’ll go now to crush them rats

Them rats, he sez, needs to be crushed

And no-one knew exactly what it meant, how to crush them
We drove those bulldozers there
And the forecast was rain
So it starte’t as we drove out
The rain
It hant rained fer a month then
The drought
So them rats marche’t out in the rain
All of them
All there were of them

More than stars in August skies
They marche’t and marche’t
They drank the rain
They had some badger’s bum, them rats

And then we starte’t up our ‘dozers and move’t on


Rats are very clever
They’re not beasts, they’re something else
So much brains
At a battery farm in Novy there are
Eggs on this conveyor belt in three rows
Saw it with me own eyes
The first belt, the lowest one
Nah, it’s tot’ly unreal

Them rats works in pairs
One climbs to the belt, takes an egg with its little paws
And lies on its back
It holds it with its front paws and helps itself with back ones
And the second rat
Just imagine how much brain it takes
The second rat pulls it down by its tail
And the egg doesn’t break
On account of it lying on the first rat’s belly
And the second one pulls its buddy by the tail
How much brain

So I trace’t where they roll’t it
There was a space down there under the tape transport
Down there it was
I raise’t the cover and saw it, the mountain of eggs
All of them are whole
I call’t the foreman to show him
He sees it and sez,
Fer fuck’s sake. Wow.

Very clever, them
So they are


But at the coalmine them rats are tot’ly unreal
When I was very young, went down me first coal-face
I left me ration in me pocket
I look’t and saw all other fellers hangs them rations
High to them beams
But I was young
Me first time in that coal-face
So I change’t

And left me ration in me pocket
But all the rest of them fellers hangs them up to them beams
I dint catch it
And thought to meself, why’s that
Well, I was a young eejit then

So I’m in me overalls
And five minutes later me foreman sez,
Natty, he sez
Go see if your ration’s still in place or where

I dint catch it but I went
And saw only the wrapper there
Them rats feckin’ took me ration out of me pocket
Fechin’ stole it, so they did


When I work’t in the coalmine, I earn’t OK
Home furniture, this and that
I had meself some hi-fi
With speakers
As you turn it on full blast, the whole village jumps up and down
Later, as I left the wife
I left everything to her but took me hi-fi with me
Me da chopped the speakers
A sotted goat he was
Altho’ it’s a sin to speak like this
On account of him being dead and all that

At first, the wife was all like,
Love you, she sez
All women are like this
As long as you bring monies to them, it’s all lovey-dovey
But when the coalmine was kaput, where’s all their love
There it goes, this love of theirs
I, she sez, earn more than you now
And who are you a-tall
I was the one who assembl’t the whole wall unit
With me own hands, you forgot that

At first, they din’t pay for six months
And the wife, she minded the village store
Lots of food in that store, sure
So she got proud

So I comes to the mine office fer an advance
Nope, they sez, no monies —
Our general manager does
Well, if the wages’s not there then it’s not
So I went away
I shouldn’t have tho’
But I did

The lads sez to me then,
There, Natty, look —
The office folks all go the cashier’s
Dog-fashion to the hatch and rustle there
What’s the deal, thinks I
And I sez, I don’t know about you, lads
But I’m not going to that coal-face
Until I’m paid

The bitches
So I decide’t meself to go on a hunger strike
On account of there’s nothing to eat anyways
Well, not only meself
There were four of us there

The point is
They sold the coal
And the monies
The general manager’s son jump’t in a plane
In New Zealand the mutton is fifty kopecks per kilo
So fer us it was two-fifty on a wages day
The point was, it was on a wages day

So I went to the coalmine mad as hell
They din’t want to let me in
But I sneak’t in
Not to the coal-face itself, mind you
Together with other lads, four of us there was

Two-fifty, just look at that

So we lie down
With some mineral water and carbon in pills
The idea itself, to feed coalminers with coal
The woman doctor comes to take our blood pressure
Then some reporters comes
And there’s a scandal, so it was
They show’t us in the news
As we lie and stuff ourselves with that carbon

So here comes the foreman calling
Natty, pick up the phone, he sez
But he din’t say who it was
So I pick it up
Speaking, I sez

And there —
This is the general director
Of the Primorye Coal Joint-Stock Company calling

So then I sez,
Fuck you, general director
Of the Primorye Coal Joint-Stock Company

So we lay there fer four days
I had a good night’s sleep there
Fatten’t meself like insane
With tinned saury, sausages, and chocolate
I normally don’t like sweets but here I ate it
Only they din’t sneak the booze to us
You can’t booze on a hunger strike

Then the foreman comes again
Rise and shine, he sez, they pay the wages now
At first I thought it was just fer us
But no, the whole coalmine got it
And we were the heroes of course
Everyone started to invite us for drinks right on the spot
So that I couldn’t get home all by meself

The wife sez to me,
Good thing you they din’t bring you home earlier
Just now, she sez, a reporter came
He waited for you
And left fifteen minutes ago
But the point is, he was an American reporter
And a lady interpreter with him

It’d be such a shame fer the nation
On account of me unable to walk a-tall
What could he think of us, Russians
That we’re wimps
And can’t booze
But how one could explain it to him
He’s an American, he won’t get it
Good thing they din’t bring me earlier

So we went on living with the wife fer a year more
And then I left
The coalmine was kaput
And the wife din’t love me anymore
All women are like that, so they are —
And that’s all their love


When they shut the coalmines down
Everyone went on a binge
Fer four months, so they did
I drank too
And then I stopped

So I’m lying down, reading a book
And there’s some music nearby
Now louder
Now softer
I got it, it play’t in the wall
Play’t and play’t
Fer a whole day it did
Then fer two days, and three
Then I couldn’t stand it anymore
And broke the wall down
But fat chance

It starte’t to play in me ears

So I called me daughter
Alyona, I sez—
And she was a little ‘un just then
Went to the fifth form or so—
Bring your ear to me, will you

So she did

Do you hear anything?
Nope, she sez, da, I don’t
Apart from your guts burbling

Then I told her to listen
Right out of me ear
There’s music, I sez, in me ears
So she listened in me ear, too
Nope, she sez, it’s all quiet

And then I got scared
Fer I saw it was a fecking hell
On account of everyone hearing music before they die

But I din’t

So it went fer five days
I din’t sleep a wink in five days
And then it was over

All quiet
Real good

Those violins all the time


I have some neighbors across the gully
The young ones
But they already have a bunch of kids
First, they made the two of them
Then I look’t and there were three
Sure they were fast with them
In just one summer
Or maybe two

And he had a golden chain on him
Thick as my finger
And also a car
You toil and toil here like damned
But can’t buy yourself undies
Unlike them

Well, that’s because I hit the bottle
And they’re Tartars

What’s to be done here


Here we have mostly Ukes living
And also Tartars
A half of them Tartars
A half of them Ukes
They settled here even before the war
In eighteen sixty

A smidgen of Koreans
And there are some Moldovans
Those ones I don’t like
On account of when I was in the Army
Our company commander was one
And he ban’t Russians from wearing ‘tash
Only them Moldovans could do that
So those Moldovans could have ‘tash
But a Russian with ‘tash, feck no

That Basil, he’s a Gipsy
But a Moldovan anyways
So he’s a good man
Altho’ you can’t say on sight

And them Tartars and Ukes, they’re OK
Let them live


As I was gathering firewood
I froze meself very much
Not the whole of meself tho’
But hands and fingers
I thought they freeze away and fall down
Especially this one, on the side
I had it broken
And it freezes when it comes to that
Even when it’s hot sometimes

And so it did
Sure enough
I needed the firewood after all

The point is, I was bedridden
Fer some days
Din’t fire me furnace and din’t eat almost nothing
So it was minus two in the house
And the reason I knew it
Was that the water froze in me glass
Like it always does when it’s minus two
It’s the law of nature when you have to get up and fire the furnace
But no firewood, see

So I went
But it was fecking cold like
I even thought I’d die there
Last year it wasn’t that cold
Me hands froze especially
Especially me fingers
Especially this little one on the side

And there was a bit of a fence there
As you turn right into the Sukhanka
Remaining after a fire
I was surprised meself
As I thought it got stolen long ago
But no, there still stood some
So I broke meself off a coupla bits
Enough to heat meself a house
And as carried it home
I felt there was the end to me finger
That’s too bad, I thought to meself

And here comes Pasha the Towser
Where, he sez, you’re going, home?
Nope, I sez, to the restaurant
Oh, he sez, right
He really thought I was going to the restaurant
Altho’ it was a different way away
In the village center, in the square
Run by those ones
Who left fer good
They also had the store

But me hands were frozen already like you don’t believe

But I carried the fence bits home alright
Threw them in me yard
And ran to me neighbor
Knocking and praying fer him to open
I knew he had hisself a pussycat
A pussycat is the first remedy
If you freeze yourself something

Glory be, he open’t
I sez, Is your pussycat home?
He sez, Step right in
So I did, and lifted meself his pussycat from the floor
And the wonder was, it all went away
As I stuck me fingers under that pussycat
As she lay’t her tummy on them
And grab’t me finger to her with her front paw
‘Cause she was smart, that’s why
Some fingers with one paw, other fingers with the other
A good one

So I warm’t
Went home
Took the fence bits
Fire’t the furnace

Altho’ it still was minus two in the house fer some time
The water din’t melt all at once


It happed’t once before the Army
I was with some girls, late
Even later
Came home at five in the morning
And me mom’s in the kitchen, not asleep a-tall

Me mom
In the kitchen, not asleep, wrap’t in a blanket
And shivers like all over

Here, she sez, I just saw a brownie
At first, he pull’t me blanket
Pull’t and pull’t
I can’t get it
As soon as I doze off
Me blanket goes to the floor
I woke up twice
And the third time, he tramped
Right across me feet

That’s what me mom sez

And then
I was wide awake of course
Anyone will be
When he tramps like so

I saw him
We had a kitchen table right by the window
You could see it across from their bedroom
So he starte’t roaming over that table
Hither and thither, this way and that
Little like so
All hairy like a dog
With the window back of him, it was a clear view
So me mom got herself scare’t
Almost to her death

Me auntie sed later
It happen’t to her, too
And he came to strangle her quite recently
Exactly like so
But me auntie’s so formidable
That she ask’t him straightaway, fer better or fer worse
And the brownie sez, Fer Worse

But nothing happen’t
No war, nothing a-tall

So I think
You’ve got to fecking curse them
Straightaway, no questions
As he comes to pull on your blanket, you go, Feck you
Fer if you talk with every little shit like so
Your talking will soon run out, feck’s sake


I’m gonna launch me some repairs
Already bought meself some paint and a brush
And various limes fer me ceiling
At first, I wante’t to whitewash me walls, too
But I won’t
Not nice
If there’s some dried blood on the white

I won’t paste no wallpapers, too
I’ll just paint meself some walls, and that’s it
Better this way one hunnert times

I also have a water pump close to me house
Like, very near it
Almost in it
I’d lai’t meself some waterworks, too
Right into me house
I have meself some working hands
But I won’t

Why do I need them waterworks
If I have that pump close by
Altho’ that’s not the point

Like, I’d lay those pipes
Spend the money
This and that
And me house burns down all of a sudden


While I have those winos on the other side of me wall
No waterworks fer me
I wish there was some way to evict them
Or at least poison them
Not their half of the house a-tall

This half belongs to the Queen of the Cemet’ry
She lets in everyone and their cousin
Like lodgers
Or feck knows
Some winos
Meself, I’ve not touch’t the bottle fer three months
But them, pissing right on their half
Shiting right inside
Bestial parasites
Like pissing in your house
Is that right a-tall?
And also they have one room for the trash
From the junkyard up to their ceiling

Yesterday, me sitting in me kichen
Drinking meself some tea
And I look, and there are black midges
In a swarm
Hovering in that swarm
The whole bunch of them flying around
Where did they come from?
From their half, that’s where

Some fleas come around, and some leeches
Some white moth butterflies
There was never nothing
But here they come

Meself, I live clean
Scrub me the floor
Wash meself those dishes
Why should there be them fleas and moths?
They come from them
Everything comes from them
I’m afraid they burn the whole house down some day
And the waterworks
I’m afraid fer them pipes to burn

Our barracks is the young one, 20 years old
The rest of them are 60 years old
A fellow came to me once
Let’s, he sez, do and exchange
I sez, Feck you, man
He sez, But me rooms are bigger than yours
So that to hurt me

I curse’t him away anyways
And he left

Why do I need bigger rooms?
I have two of them, and a kitchen
One room is small
I live in it
The other one is big
I don’t live in it

I even boarded the door up

There’s no furniture in it
Me da died in it
So I buried me da
And drank the furniture away

But now I’ve been dry fer three months already

There used to be a wall unit there
So I drank the wall unit away
A carpet
Some cut glass
A TV set
A tape recorder
A curtain

I buried me da and somehow went on a binge
And came to after the wake only
With no curtain
To hell with it
And them wall units are out of fashion anyways
Unlike before
In the USSR
But now
Feck them wall units
And the same with the cut glass
So I nailed that door shut

And I chiefly sit in me kitchen
When I’m home
Eating me soup or some ‘taters maybe
Or just sleep in me small room
Enough fer me
I don’t need more

But those fleas
And them white moth butterflies
And them bigfoot leeches trampling everywhere

I even decide’t to paint me walls because of them
It’s easier to pick off the paint
Altho’ it’s a pity with me ceiling
But what’s to do here
There’s no way to do it all in glazed tile

Alright, I’ll just whitewash it
So I bought meself all those limes
And a brush
It’s time to do me some house repairs

It’s the springtime after all
Five years without any whitewash


I felt it coming
I sez, I’m gonna go home today
Or something may happen
But them sez, Oh go on, go on
And kept me fer the night
But I felt it, so I did

I did the repairs then, a fella hired me
They bought a flat
Them went to stay with them da
Leaving all them things here, they knew I won’t steal from them
So I lived there and did them repairs
And guarded it, too

So they all left
And I lie there watching TV
All of a sudden some woman screams in me ear,
Switch to the first!

So I did
And she sez, Now to the second!
I did
She sez, Switch to first, you asshole!
I switch’t
And she sez, To the second!
I did
But she sez, You bitch, now on to the first!

When I got tire’t, she left
But some fella appeare’t at once
And he whispers to me, they want to feck you, they do
You’re a moron
How much did they promise you?
So then
They won’t give you shite

I felt mighty hurt then
Fer I’d almost finish’t everything there
So, I think, I get meself a pretty mess here

And that fella sez, You feck them yourself
So I felt joy as I sez, But how?
And he sez, You asshole! cursing me, It’s real simple
There’s an ax in the lobby there
You ax the TV set
Into five pieces

So I brought the ax
And made a swing
But then —
Five pieces
He sez, five

The four I get
Once across and then once along
But how you cut it into five pieces?

So I sat down and crie’t hard
I got it, I’d never feck with them good

So they comes in the morning
And me there sitting with that ax crying

They injecte’t me with some Benadryl
And I slept
It went away then


They almost never steal nothing here
Might kill someone when drunk, that they may
But steal, only if it don’t belong to nobody
There was a time tho’ when they did me jeans off the washline
But then they thought me dead
And if me dead, me jeans don’t belong to nobody

What the feck do I need them jeans fer if there’s no me
Me dead won’t wear them, right?

Twice I got buried alright
Once it don’t count
But the second time
They even bought me a wreath and stole me jeans

It so happen’t that went moonlighting to Novy village
Andrew’s flat got bought by his aunty
So he came to fetch me in the morning, and I spent there a month

Did the repairs
Never coming home
And I live’t right there

Andrew, mind, came to that flat fer two weeks
Going past me house
And he sez, Your pants are still hanging there
And who will climb me fence fer then anyway?
But then he went away hunting

So I finish’t me job, with the tiles and ev’rything
And came home
And me beard grew this long
I even scare’t meself looking in me mirror, oh feck
Well what can you do if you don’t shave fer a month
Altho’ the beard becomes me

So I came home with me beard and me money
But there’s no lock on me door
Or rather there is but fer effect only
Fer it got sawn away
I’m like, Oh
So I comes in
And nothing is missing but ev’rything’s wrong
Someone was here clearly
So I come to the Queen, me neighbor
What’s up here?
And she sez, Who the feck are you
I don’t know you

I sez, I’m Natty, your neighbor
Oh, she sez, I din’t recognize you with that beard

She’s a stupid fool, that woman
So I ask Valka, What’s up here
And who did wat in me place
But she sez, Them were the po-lice
They’ve been looking fer you everywhere
In order to bury you

There’s a ton of blood in your flat, she sez
You got yourself kille’t, she sez

A ton of blood, yeah
I cut meself a finger that one time
Here’s a scar still here
Had no time to wash it all off
Andrew pick’t me up to do that moonlighting job first thing in the morning
And they decide’t I got done fer
On the account of no me to be seen
Me neighbor Peter got jail’t
They sez, You drank with Natty, and so you kill’t him
But he din’t kill me a-tall

So they let him out then
He was mighty glad
Natty, he sez, how good it is
That you din’t die anywhere and came home
Or I’d taken a vacation real good
Well they might, that’s right
On the account of Andrew away hunting

The village council bought me a wreath
The chairman sez,
When Peter sings where he buried him
He meant me
That is, me dead body
Then we’d bury him like good folks do, he was a coalminer after all
He meant me
And a telegram to me ex

I dunno who they gave me wreath to then

And me jeans, Valka sez
Hang’t there till the day before yesterday
And in the morning I look and see, she sez
But there’s no jeans no more
Someone came at night, she sez
To fecking steal me jeans off the washline

But they din’t touch anything in me house, so they did
Altho’ the po-lice saw’t the lock off

I reckon, Valka stole those jeans
Fecking candy, she needs her drink
But I din’t investigate
Feck them a-tall
They were old anyways


A woman must be
With this here and that
And nor like a plank a-tall
Let her even be fat
Not like that cashier of cause
But she can be a bit fat
The main thing, she shouldn’t be thin

And her nature must be kind
But also a little bit strict
If she’s too kind I won’t obey her
I’ll drink every day
The nature should be strict
But also at least kind

There’s more, she must be thrifty
And also digging in the veggy garden
So that I could come home, and she’s back from the garden
Bringing me a cucumber to eat with me drink
Or at least a tomato

And she must cook
The woman must be like this
To have soup always
Or some borsht at least

Let her even read books
That’s alright
I like me some reading meself
A crime story or some war novel
The main thing, she shouldn’t smoke

This is me dream that I have


And them rats in the coalmine oh fecking wow
Like this big
They’re special there
In the deep

The depth is 900 meters
The dark
And the pressure
Blocks your ears

Well I caught one there
Wrappe’t it in me apron
Kinda curious
Raise’t it up to the surface
And let it go
It went blind at once

And then it ran aside, fell down, and twitch’t some
I look and see it all puffs up
It puff’t up and then it blew up
It got use’t, the bitch, to them 900 meters


And that one, he did what
Me school mate
He was even treate’t in a loony bin
At first, he just din’t want to serve in the Army
So he enliste’t in a loony bin, and became a loony
They treate’t him in the territorial loony bin, in the city
But that was later
He’d been a complete nutcase even before that tho’

His granny died in Artyom
So later he move’t there
And maybe got hisself kill’t there, too
Fer there are many Gypsies in Artyom

But while he live’t here, he did what
In summer, he walke’t along Sukhanka
And put all cats he met on the way, in his sack
He sees a cat, he grabs it by the tail, and he puts it in his sack
In summer, them cats are sleepy when it’s hot
And the shite is liquid in them shithouses

In the village, everyone has a cat
Or two
Some people have even four of them
Fer there are mice, too
There’s the hell of a lot of mice here
And them rats
Seryoga has hisself a real bruiser of a tomcat
See there the fence broken down there
His cat broke it

Seryoga shooe’t him away fer good
Fer he shites on his blanket
He shat once
He shat twice
Seryoga ask’t him good to stop
But he shat again
So Seryoga sez, Out the feck with you
So if he’s here now, let him be
On account of them rats

So Pete does what, he collects hisself a full sack of them cats
And goes with them to a shithouse
To throw then in the shite there
Like shakes the sack out over that hole
And then runs away

And it’s July out there
Or some August
Hot like hell
The cesspits aren’t deep around here
On account of them ground waters, you can’t dig them deep
So all them cats run around outside
Like them are in shock or scare’t
Anyone would be, getting into shite like this
Who would like it?
So them all run home lickety-split
All coate’t with shite they run home

And it’s July out here
Or some August
All doors are wide open
So them cats go right into rooms
Whoosh. Whoosh
All coate’t with shite
Under them beds or somewhere else
In the kitchen, say
Them housewives naturally faint, like,
That’s some wedding for you, with so much shite in me house
They shout, Oh no! Oh no!
The shite is not the honey, it smells

And Pete sits there in some bush
All glad and laughing
On account of fifteen cats coming home all in shite!
He watches woman wail
And carry them cats to water pumps
First one
Then another
There’s a queue already
And then you can’t come up to that water pump fer a mile

Them cats weren’t let in them houses until winter
Fer they reek’t of shite
Like you sit in the yard with them lads
Drinking beer or something
And a cat like that jumps on your lap
That’s it
Fer the rest of them you’ve been dipp’t in that cesspool
They’ll laugh at you, they’ll shame you, so they will
Like you’d been jumped on by a shite-cat
Al all them cats around Sukhanka were shite-cats then
Well, every second one was
You just can’t sit in your yard on account of them cats

So the lads took vengeance on him
The women wanted to kill him dead
But the lads sez, no need to
We’ll sort it out ourselves

Them Karpovs called the district po-lice fer that matter
But the po-lice sez, They din’t kill him after all

Uncle-Kolya Ivashchenko was a good man
He din’t jail Uncle-Misha

Uncle-Misha-God-rest-his-soul operated the cesspool emptier
So them lads comes to him, like, Uncle-Misha, would you?
He sez, Well, that will cost you-all a bottle
So they bought him a bottle

In the end, Pete became a shite-man hisself
They stuck the hose into his bike
Fer Pete was a proud owner of a Urals bicycle with a sidecar
He kept it in his yard
At first, they wante’t to extend it his house but it was too far
And them Karpovs din’t let them through their lot
Well, if that’s that, the Urals will do

The sidecar full of shite, and the shite all around it, too
Up to the very fence all was in shite, literally
The district po-lice sez, Feck you-all
That’s what he sez, It’s a fertilizer
On account of them Karpovs had a mighty leak to their veggie garden
The cesspool emptier takes two and half ton of shite
The GAZ-fifty-two


Me, I believe in God, meself
Always thinking
What should I do to be admitted in paradise?
Not to kill anyone, that much is clear
But what else?
Not to steal, that’s harder
Like, I stole a fecking pole
On Wednesday I fecking did it
I’d’ve sawed it apart at once but fer the small of me back
But on account of it I did it only on Thursday
It will carry me till April fer me firewood
It only stood there with no wires on it
All dry and easy to saw apart
They took them wires fer nonferrous metals as early as 1994
And I know where are three other poles are
But I keep them fer me next year
Be there them wires, I wouldn’t
But there ain’t so why not
By the by, it’s not a sin to fecking steal a pole
Nobody needs it
But I do alright
Or is it
The po-lice would say it’s a sin
But why the feck if there are no wires on it

On Saturday, I’m going meself to the church
To put a candle for me mum
Should do it, shouldn’t I

But drinking sure is a sin
Altho’ you can do it if you only take a drop
But meself I decided to quit
I even saw the divil once when drunk
Such a piece of shite it was

After the New Year’s Eve I went cold-turkey
It will be two months in March
And I quit smoking almost a month ago
Me da quit, too
Din’t smoke fer seven years
But then he started again of course
On account of old ‘baccy being a mighty stuff
But so far I don’t want to drink never again
Neither to smoke no more so far
There is God
And me coming to Him on Saturday

Should remember to shave meself
Me mug is all fecking wild-grown


If you’re being late
You’d better not go there a-tall
Fer there won’t be any use
It’s an omen

Even before the coalmine
I’ve been working fer ritual services
I built them coffins
They pait me good
More than them coalminers receive’t
And the wages they pait every week

And there I met
Me future ex
She wove them there
Those things they out in a coffin
Made of flowers
A no-sweat kind of job a-tall
So we live’t together at first
Looke’t good
So —
Let’s do it
Bought them rings

A car
Her school mate sez,
He’d drive us
And me da sez,
Come visit me
On account of that
It being May the 9th
Me ex din’t want to go
As if she felt it
But we went anyways

So while we were sitting with me da
They broke into our home
Stole them rings and her pantyhose
Even them pillows from the bed
But they din’t touch the money tho’
The purse was right on that vanity dresser
But they din’t take it
Seemed to do it all in a quick hurry

The wedding is in five days
And we have to buy all them rings again
But we earned good then
So we did it, din’t we

And in the morning, when we’re to be wed, her mate sez,
Listen, he sez, at night they stole me car
Well fecking hell in blisters
How we are supposed to travel now to the town?

Found another car
But were late for the registrar’s ceremony
Them omens, me ex sez
And she was right
We din’t last seventeen years

Altho’ she was older than me
By about three years


Well I wonder
If I get meself baptized, will they let me to paradise?
Fer I never kill’t anyone ever
I wante’t twice tho’
No, thrice
Three times, I remember it right
I din’t kill three fellas

Never ate any dog
But once even tho’ I din’t know it
And they told me afterwards
And I threw it all up
If they told me at once I’d never touch’t it
Bitches they are, ain’t them a-tall
Fer you can’t kill dogs

You can’t kill anyone
But them dog you can’t especially
You can’t kill them dogs like no-one else
‘Cause they trust you

There was one here who ate dogs
He stole a puppy from me da and kill’t it
Ate dogs all the time
He sez, it was for his lungs
He stole ours and kill’t it
Me da comes to him
And he sez, Not me

But he did it alright

Later he claim’t
He thought that was no-one’s doggy
And me da sez, So what?
God will punish you, you’ll see

That fella laugh’t
And sez,
Like feck there’s a God, there’s no one there
And the very next day, he got under a train
And his legs were cut up to his very balls
Because there is God

My ex was in the hospital at that time
So they bring that one, without his legs
There were no free beds there
So they put him in the corridor
Me ex sez, the smell was something awful
So that
He wouldn’t stink if he were any good
But he was evil
And also curse’t God
Thinking there is no-one there
Yeah, yeah
A lot of people thought there’s no God
And then this fecking hell happens
They die to hell fer six hunnert years
I read in a book somewhere about it

Six hunnert years
Is a lot of time, come to think of it
I don’t wanta go to hell
Neither do I want to get hit by any train

Fer it sure is scary


God sure exists, so he does
One hunnert percent
Wish I could see him
I wonder what he looks like

I saw me mam in me sleep
She sez, Gimme some bread
And I dream’t I had me a long loaf for fourteen kopecks
So I gave it to her
She grab’t it
Hungry was she
Why is it so?
I wept then

I’m going to go baptize meself
Fer I’m not baptized, see
Gotta be baptized
Why me mam came to me in me sleep
I don’t even know

Fer I’m not baptized, see
Will God accept me candle?
Fer I’m going to put the candle fer me mam

I believe he will


When I was still living with me ex
In that five-storey apartment building where they have that store
They gave us that apartment at the coalmine
There was a time when we din’t have any central heating in that building
And you can’t build yourself a stove there
On account of it being the apartment

It’s far better to live yer own house, no matter if there’s no heat
Feck them all
But you have to suffer in yer apartment
So me ex took the apartment fer herself, and I don’t care
Fer I have the stove to meself
So I live in me da’s house again
Although it’s a barrack but it’s me own

So had meself that neighbor, Stepan
He lived right beneath me and me ex
And he always left his keys home
So he stood beneath our windows and scream’t
Fer his wife, whatshername

To let him in

So there was that time when I was smoking on me balcony
And that fella came screaming
Why do you scream like that? I axe’t
The balcony’s door’s closed anyways
Take a pebble and throw it
So he did
He was such an eejit, he dug a brick from under the snow
And threw the feck it


The Tartar axe’t me once,
Look, he sez, eh
Let a man live at yer place
Fer he has to
Well, I sez, why not
No harm in that fer it’s not free

So the Tartar brought his man

And that man wasn’t just a man
He was some kind of a navy colonel
Whatshisname, don’t remember
A military medicine colonel
Making those fecking passes with his hands
Like a natural shaman
And he was all yellow, so he was

So I knocked together some trestle fer him to sleep
Put it in me da’s former room
Fer I don’t go in there anymore
So I thought to meself, Let the shaman live there
But he did what, he brought the trestle back in in the morning
And put it in me kitchen, by the stove

He slept all dress’t, in his overcoat
With three blankets piled on hisself
And he strok’t up that stove so
You can’t breathe in there
Fer he was cold all the time

And he never slept at night
Only in daytime
Where they only find them people like that
Well thanks a lot, you Tartar

So I endur’t fer a month
And that day I came back from work
The shaman got up already
And he sez, I cook’t some food
Sit down, he sez, we’ll eat
I cook’t some soup, he sez

I look and see, there’s a pot on me stove
So I sat down
He took the lid off that pot
The smell was kinda nice
So I thought to meself, He may be an alright man after all
Then he pour’t his soup in them plates
I look and see
The soup is all blue

I turn’t the shaman out


Today, as I went fer a pail
I met that fella on the Sukhanka
His last name is Sitnik
He went along with a knife like that
This huge
Going right at me

You, I sez, why the knife?
But he din’t even see me
Just went on, so he did, with his knife
Right down the Sukhanka
To the cemet’ry
I think to meself, he must have them jimjams
Fer there’s no business in winter at that cemet’ry

He din’t touch the bottle fer five years a-tall
Bought hisself a boat, an overboard, and a shed at the Lagoon
Now he doesn’t have a thing again
His da was a Sitnik
He loved all homeless mongrels

Used to buy a coupla loaves of bread
And went and fed all them dogs
Until he had no more bread on him
He was a Witness
And his wife was a Witness, too

They went to their church mornings to noon
Every Sunday, both of them
Until they pray’t enough, and after that they went home to drink
Until four, and after four he pummel’t the feck out of her
Until he went weak, and after that she pummel’t him
But he ran away to feed them dogs
And then he sat on a bench with his cat
Until it got dark

But that one, with the knife, at Sukhanka
There’s a black sheep in every family


And then a New Russian comes and sez,
I’ll be living here
What the feck, to tear the barracks down, and that’s it
So where will I live then?
Got to register me barracks to me name
So I’ll go to the village council
So that it’s not too late after
Been planning to go there fer a long time
Got to, got to do it

And me neighbor, the drunkard on the other side of me wall
The son of the Queen of the Cemet’ry
Well them people who have them moths
Well his wife died yesterday
So he comes to me and sez,
Gimme a light, he sez
I sez, Why, are you planning to set the barracks on fire again?
And he sez, I want meself a smoke
Me wife, he sez, just died
So I gave him a light
He lit up and cry’t
They just took her, he sez, to the morgue

So I comforte’t him, of course
Took pity on him
The village council, I sez, will bury her
There’s nothing to be afraid of, I sez
Nothing scary


I saw Valka today, the Queen of the Cemet’ry
She was going down, all spick and span
Din’t recognize her at first
In mink hat and long coat
I almost sat meself on me ass
Where, I sez, did you dress like this
Where did you get a proper hat like this
And even washed your face?

Feck you, she sez


That one, she used to have her hubby, too
A good man
Altho’ no arm
Altho’ the left one
And no leg, too
He wore a peg leg
Before his peg leg he had hisself a gangrene
So they had to saw his leg off
Them doctors din’t care one way or the other
First it’s like this, then it’s like that, and then once again
So they gave him his peg leg, and that was it

Everyone was scared of him
So they should
He beat the feck out of everyone with his peg leg

He went fishing
Setting them nets
There was no way telling that he was a cripple

Then he died of course

And that one, whatshername
Found herself another fellow
I told her and told her then,
You fool, let me marry you
And she sez, No

On account of me drinking

Well I am
But even I can not-drink from time to time
I’m hard-working and I have me legs
And me arms are both with me

But she went and found herself a dopehead
That one, me neighbor
I forget the name
It’ll come to me later
And maybe I’ll still marry her
Them dopeheads don’t usually live long

But me, I have those both legs
For of them, if you count me arms


Oleg’s neighbor almost burn’t her barracks
I don’t want to live, she sez
Kill me, she sez
I’m tired, she sez, of me life
There’s no joy in it, she sez
Feck it all, she sez

Well, right she is
She would spend her pension on drink
And then she has nothing left fer food
She has her son and daughter-in-law in the city
They visit her from time to time
But seldom
Fer they don’t drink a-tall
They even work somewhere
They leave her some food, and she squanders it on her drink, too
Then her neighbors feed her with their soup
Fer she’s blind to boot

Four years ago
Or I don’t remember when
Looks like more
About eight or twelve years ago
A lot of people went blind
On account of them drinking that shite fer cars
Six people sharp died then

So she did what
She plugged her electric hotplate into her socket
And threw a rag on it
And when the rag started to stink
She took it to her bed
Lied down herself under her blanket
Pulling it over her head
And she lay there
Waiting fer her death

Our third neighbors had their kid getting up at seven
So he smell’t it
They kick’t her door out
And found her lying under her blanket
With her head cover’t
The whole house full of smoke
At first they wante’t to fecking beat her
But then thought better of it

She sez,
You all bitches
I, she sez,
Wanted to die
And you din’t let me
And now I have no blanket

That’s how it goes
Everyone’s too lazy to hang hisself
They all want an easy death


We all looked fer some Turkish delight as kids
All days long were looking fer it in summer
We thought we’d get rich
If we’re lucky
And find the white Turkish delight

There was a map
Petka said he knew fer sure the place where it was buried
In them woods far away, should take an electric train to it
Near Ussuriysk on the other side
And we went there, so we did. Digging fer two days
What does it even look like, that Turkish delight?
Petka axe’t
Everyone laughe’t
Like he’s looking fer something he doesn’t even know what
But there was that map, that did it

Later on, I climb’t down that old adit
I thought meself that there it sure should be
The fool I was, fer if it even had been there
It’s clear it’s long gone since then

There happen, I thought, different kinds of Turkish delight
But the white one is the rarest
So I looked only fer the white one
And them kids, they went fer all kinds
Altho’ not so precious
Seryoga Andreyev dig’t out the blue one
But then he lost it by accident

We believ’t him, so we did
It’s funny now, of course
But then
When we went looking fer Turkish delight

Well we went looking fer Turkish delight

Looking and looking fer Turkish delight
Looking fer it all summer long
But it wasn’t anywhere to be found
The blue one’s fine, Seryoga did find it
But the white one, who ever saw it?
So we decide’t then
Than the white Turkish delight
Don’t happen in nature

And Petka said he din’t believe in it anymore
So he stop’t looking
Oh well

Then I starte’t going on me own
No need to share it with anyone
And Petka perish’t in an adit in August

It was clear why he went down there
Fer I climb’t all over them adits meself
But no one else
Died that year
On account of us all tired of looking fer it

And the fall happen’t to boot
With its school and taters harvesting
Chopping firewood and stacking it in that shed
Digging up those veggie patches
Lots of stuff to do, fer the winter’s coming
Well, we all could’ve clear forgot about it

And I kinda did, too, keeping silent about it

That the foolishness sat deeply in me head
I thought to meself, will wait until summer, and when it’s warmer
I’ll go at once
To look fer the white Turkish delight

And here the wake happened and stuff
Forty days after Petka died
His da axe’t kids to their yard
Us all, to treat
With them palms of our hands up and forward
Gave us sweets, pastries, well the usual works
And something to cover it all
Some yellow stuff, tasting like shite
We went out and gave it to dogs
It was the first time when they brought it to our village
Me mum sent me to fetch some bread, that was when I saw it
Them Turkish delights were display’t in the shop window
Those sticky and rumpl’t Turkish delights
The yellow ones
The blue ones
All sorts
And the white ones


The hemp is a good grass
Don’t even know what’d I do without it
I’d prob’ly drink of course
But with it I don’t
At the Sukhanka they all drink
Me alone always sober
Fer how long
I don’t even remember
Three months again

You smoke some grass and it’s so good
You don’t even need all this drink
You don’t even want it a-tall
It feels all so good in your mouth
And in your liver
And in your mood
That I don’t want to drink a-tall
On account of it feeling bad in me mouth
And you can’t just stop drinking
They gave me some seeds as a gift
But it doesn’t grow in winter
Altho’ it’s all healthy

There was a time when I plante’t it in a pot
Where I had some aloes growing
So I plante’t it near them
And there some feck grew up
With no use fer eyes and no beauty fer liver
It grew tall to the ceiling
I told everyone
It was hemp
But no one even believe’t me

When the spring comes I’ll plant it in me veggie garden
And won’t tell anyone
When it grows I’ll be smoking it
It smells nice
And is healthy
And let them there drink their “Fur Seals”
But I won’t
Fer it hurts here after that, and there, too
But the hemp, it only makes you hungry
So I take a loaf of bread and just eat it
Like that cashier woman at the Eighth
Sitting there and just eating of her bread
Altho’ she’s too fat
It’s her sickness, the diabetes
Altho’ she doesn’t drink and doesn’t smoke

I wish the spring comes sooner
I’ll be planting me hemp then


I was born in our village so I’ll die in it
Not now of course
A bit later
Me da was born here, too
He also said he’d die here
So he did, he died

What is there to go away to
It’s all crap everywhere
I’ve never been to the city in these ten years
Altho’ I went there a while ago
There’s nothing good there

Here, it’s also bad
But not that bad
Me mum died here, too
Altho’ she was born in Siberia
But I don’t want to go to that Siberia
Fer it’s too far
And what do I need there a-tall
I’ll die here
But later

And me sis also died here
And me nephew
And me grandda
And me granny, both of them
The second grandda died somewhere at war
Found hisself a place somewhere
But all those other ones them all died here
All me neighbors’ kin as well
As you come to the cemet’ry
All of them you know
This is why I also want it here
But not now yet so far

Well feck it anyways
Found meself something to blab about
Pah! Pah! Pah!
Lord forgive me


Which year is our leap year, the next one
Or now?
How many days do we have in February?
28? Alright then
It’s when there are 29 of them I don’t like
It makes one wait longer fer the spring

When was that leap year we had
Twenty oh four, looks like
Or twenty oh oh
Nah, it was twenty oh four fer sure
On account of it being only recently
When Valka’s son got rich

He dug 110 graves in one summer
We all thought he’d buy hisself a car
But no, he spent it all on drink

Well anyways
It’s gonna be very warm very soon
All them snowbanks will melt
And it’s gonna be warm at once
No need to stoke the fire in me furnace
Only from time to time

It’s good there are only 28 of them


Copyright © 2009, by Lora Beloivan

Translation copyright © 2021, by Max Nemtsov