Horses in the Ocean: Mid-Century Russian Poetry, 1/2

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(Featured image: Birds on Capitol Hill, Seattle, 2007 [digital])

(The following is the first of two poems I am posting from The New Russian Poets: 1953 to 1966: An Anthology, selected, edited, and translated by George Reavey. I am also including my original photography with the posts.

In Reavey’s introduction, he writes of the poet Boris Slutsky: A certain almost crude directness and economy of means are the characteristic of this poet who sees his function as a “telegraph wire” which carries messages in Morse about “events.” Slutsky avoids poetic embellishments and ornaments…thus he hits straight from the shoulder and insists on “sense.” Slutsky’s dry and laconic poetic comments have an interest of their own.)


Boris Slutsky
To Ilya Ehrenburg


Horses know how to swim,
But not so well. Not too far.
In Russian, “Gloria” means “Slava.”
That you can easily remember.
The ship sailed on, proud of its name.
The ocean tried to get the better of it.
In the hold, shaking their heads,
A thousand horses trampled day and night.
A thousand horses! Four thousand hooves!
All the same they brought no luck,
A mine ripped out the bottom of the ship
when it was a long way from the shore.
The men piled into boats and sloops.
The horses could only swim.
What else could they do when there was no room
For them in the boats and on the rafts?
An island of bays was swimming in the ocean.
In the sea, the blue sea, swam an island of grays.
To swim seemed simple in the beginning.
To them the ocean seemed a river.
But it was a river that had no bank in sight.
When their equine strength was failing,
The horses suddenly began to neigh, protesting
Against those who were drowning them in the ocean.
The horses sank to the bottom, neighing, neighing,
Until they had all gone down.
That is all. Nevertheless, I pity them,
Those bay horses, that never saw the land again.


Featured Image:
Birds on Capitol Hill, Seattle, 2007. Alana Solomon. See more here.
Reavey, George, ed. The New Russian Poets: 1953-1966: An Anthology. Comp./Trans. George Reavey. 1st ed. New York: October House Inc., 1966.
Citing this page:
Solomon, Alana. “Horses in the Ocean.” Ortolana Studio & Press. Ortolana Studio & Press, 22 May 2017. Web.

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