Speaking In Tongues
Scribbling In Voices


Translated by Alex Tolkachev


* * *

You could be driving or riding a taxi
Or simply walking along with a friend
With the abundance of cars in the city
It’s hard to walk through your life to the end.
Check out the car crash on the Moskva river
Three guys were taking the fourth to the morgue
All of them, even the driver, were injured
‘Cept for the dead who was safe in his box.
Funeral deacon would skip higher notes
And hired weepers half-heartedly wept
Loud and flat was the brass band’s performance
Only the stiff didn’t cheat or fall flat.
His former boss, a concealed mafioso,
Kissed him on forehead and spat in disgust.
All took turns kissing, except for the body
Which was too timid to kiss anyone.
Suddenly thunder — and it started raining:
Forces of nature can get in the way
Everyone ran under covers and shelters
Only the dead one did not run away.
«So what it’s raining? He doesn’t mind!
It is the living who shiver and freeze.
Corpses were people of much better kind,
Brave people, nothing like you or like me.»
Kingdom of shadows is peachy and rosy
There are no dangers, or troubles, or sins.
Each day we live — is by dear God’s mercy,
It is the dead who don’t fear a thing.
One can be buried alone or with others —
Living arrangements don’t bother the corpse
«He is so nice, that deceased friend of ours,
Doesn’t require much care at all.»
Hard as you try, you cannot lose the feeling
There is a price tag attached to your head.
You can't be sure and peaceful completely
Until you are undeniably dead.
I hear you complaining: “He’s fond of the corpses”
But no, it’s my destiny that makes me mad:
Sooner or later we’ll all get run over
Except for those who are already dead.

* * *

In a game preserve — I forgot which one —
Once upon a time lived a Billy Goat.
Living among wolves didn’t howl like one
He maaa’d goat songs like a goat ought.
He was grazing in the meadow growing rounder every day
Never getting into any troubled matter.
He was useless as a goat — as the Russians like to say,
However he was harmless, which is better.
He lived in the woods, by the little moat
Never treading the turf of his neighbors’
But — they noticed one day modest Billy Goat,
And elected him to be their Scapegoat.
For example Bear, local goon and cheat,
Would insult or hurt someone, like the bears do,
They would find the Goat, bring him in, and beat
Him between the horns till he couldn’t move.
Poor Goat suffered daily never trying to protest
He endured all the beatings with a smile
Even Bear said: «The Goat sets example for the rest
He is a hero, I have noticed after while.»
They protected him like a royal heir
Even sent patrols all along the road
To make sure that, even if he’d care,
From the game preserve couldn’t go the Goat.
As far as the Goat, he was running free
However he started acting weird
Once he braded his dirty long goatie
And called Wolf a jerk from behind a tree.

Yet another day or evening, as he was routinely «scaped»
All because the Wolves bit more than their share
He, as though by mistake, began to growl like a Bear
But at that time no one seemed to hear or care.
While the predators fought their petty wars
The opinion grew in the game preserve
That more precious than Foxes, Wolves or Boars
Is the priceless old Billy-scaping-Goat.
Once the Goat heard that, all his manners changed
«Hey you, brown», he cried, «hey you, grey,
I will take away the Wolves’ place in chain
And from Bears their rights to see light of day.»
«I will show you what a Goat is like when he is really mad
I will poke holes in everything that moves
I will gore you to death and after that I’ll hurt you bad
And I’ll let the world know you died from my hooves.»
More than one of you will eat dirt for food
You will rot in hell where it’s really hot,
It is I who will decide if you were bad or good
There is no escape from the Scaping Goat!
In a game preserve — I forgot which one —
Goat runs the show, not like once before,
He lived among Wolves, and he howled like one,
Now he growls like Bear, so he scares more.

* * *

I dash, I push, — and I’m ashamed to get up
My mouth full of sand, my eyes — of tears
On God forsaken height of seven-foot-one
The plank has stopped me just like I had feared.
I’ll confess to you like in a church
That’s what athlete’s life is all about
For a moment you are at the top
And the next moment you’re going down.
But I will reap and taste the forbidden fruit
And I will yank the tail of the beast named Fame
While everybody pushes with their left foot
I like to push with right, even though it’s bad.
I dash, I push, — the crowd sees me falling
They boo and drag me down to the dumps
My Coach told me: «Man, it looks appalling.
You maybe think that this is a long jump?»
«You will pull groin if you don’t stop
Pushing right is a laughable quirk
You will never be there on the top,
You’ll fall down despite of hard work.»
But panting I explained to him: at the root
Of temporary troubles and my current plight
The fact that they all push with their left foot,
But I, myself, can only push with my right.
I dash, I push, — I’ll never catch the Frenchman
He’s laughing in my face as he flies by
I hit the plank again at seven-foot-one
And Coach told me looking in my eye:
That he will kill me with his bare hands
And that it will be for my own good
If — «I mean it!» — right there and then
I don’t switch my wrong right pushing foot.
I’ll rather eat some venom or poisoned food
Or do some other damage to myself
I won’t quit pushing wrong, with my old right foot
I won’t start pushing right, that is, with my left.
The bleachers laughed as soon as they saw me run
But mockery could never kill my zeal
I dash, I push, I fly, and seven-foot-one
Becomes my past accomplishment for real.
And it’s okay that my groin will hurt
And it’s okay that I jumped myself limp
Now I know I’ve been to the top
And nobody pushed me off of it.
Thus, I got to taste the forbidden fruit
And I caught the tail of the Fame-animal
That’s okay that they all push with their left foot
I will always push only with my right.


I grew up tall and handsome lad
Thanks to my Mother and my Dad,
A people’s person, never had a lack of friends.
I didn’t bend and I stood tall
And didn't mind life at all
And rolled along, and helped my head with both my hands.
But I was young was and I got framed
I had no credit to my name
There was this room that had a sign: «Respect the Time»
It’s where they eat you without salt,
They seal you in an envelope
Address at random, send you where the sun don’t shine.
I was a drifter but came back
With prison time behind my back
I wished that someone bought those years or took them free
I thought I’ll never get a job
But there was this recruiter snob
Who made a good long distance trucker out of me.
The road... On the side — the truck
We ran off road and got stuck
The cabin's dark, my partner hasn't said two words.
I wish he'd yell than sit like that
500 miles right or left
And all I hear is his teeth banging «Dance with Swords»
We both knew all about the road
And how they needed our load
And that our job was sit and drive through day and night
Who could have said — New Year's day,
500 miles either way
The blizzard's strong, and we can honk with all our might.
«Shut down the truck,» he says at last,
«You see yourself that we won't last,
You see yourself that there’s no use to even pray
500 miles on either end
By dawn for sure we’ll be dead
And snowed in so well we will not need a grave.»
I go: «Shut up, you make me retch»
And then he jumps and grabs a wrench
And stares at me, his face no more than deadly mask
What does he care? — 500 miles,
And only that one who survives
Will tell the story to the cops in case they ask.
He was my brother, only more
I used to hand-feed him before
And there he is, his look is giving me the chills
What does he care — 500 miles,
And who will later write in files
That he forgot who I'm to him and he — to me.
And then he left and went away
I let him go and hit he hay
I dreamed about our funny little scene
500 miles right to left
I'm looking for the «out» gate
But all I'm finding is an «in», and I'm locked in.
The end was simple — tractors came
There was a doctor and a chain
And they made sure that the truck got to its goal.
And he came back, and he looked whipped
But there will be another trip
I don’t hold grudges, he’s my partner after all.


Dreaming, I see yellow lights
And I hiss while dreaming
Give me time, oh give me time
Morning will be easy
But the morning is all wrong
Party’s long been over
Smoking on and empty gut
Or drinking in hangover.
Hey, one, another one,
And more, and more, and more, and more another ones,
Another one
Drinking in hangover.
I run into the field, along the stream
It’s dark from light, there’s no God
And in the field there are bluebells
And a road that goes far.
By the road there are thick groves
Witches hiding in them
And at the end of that long road
There’s beheading platform.
Hey, one, another one,
And more, and more, and more, and more another ones,
Another one
A beheading platform.
I run up the hill, losing breath
To save myself from trouble
On top of hill there stands an elm
And at the foot – a cherry.
Wish the slope was strewn with with grass
That would maky me happy
Wish there was anything else
Nothing is the right way.
Hey, one, another one,
And more, and more, and more, and more another ones,
Another one
Nothing is the right way.
In the church there’s dusk and stink
Deacons burning incents
No, the church is also wrong
Nothing is the right way.
Neither church, nor even pub
Nothing’s ever sacred
No, my friends, nothing is right
Nothing’s right my friends.

* * *

Take a deep breath, then some more
Do not hurry, three-and-four,
Spirit, grace, plasticity are emphasized
All around strengthening
In the mornings sobering
(If you’re still alive, of course) is exercise.
Those of you who have clean floor
Can lie down, three-and-four,
Do the exercises and don’t say a word
Try to get rid of the tension
You will learn to pay attention
Take a deep breath so it really, really hurts.
Very active ‘round the world
Is the flu, and-three-and-four,
The desease is widening and deepening
If you’re frail — you will die
So in order to survive
Take a cold wet towel, rub yourself with it.
Now please don’t talk at all
Do the sit-ups till you fall
Try your hardest not to look all grim and cross
If you can’t stand any longer
Rub yourself with something colder
Then proceed to shower which is right across.
Those of you who are fatigued
Stand-and-sit, and-stand-and-sit
We’re not afraid of Arctic and Antarctic
Our main professor Joffe
Proved to us that booze and coffee
Can be both replaced by sports and prohylactic.
We’re not scared by life’s pace
In response we run in place
Even total novice will be happy here
Wonderful: from the beginning
No one’s losing, no one’s winning
Stationary running is agreeable.

* * *

In the white hot Africa
In its central part
Once, outside the schedule
Happened a tragedy
Elephant said on the spur
There will be a flood
One Giraffe fell in love
With an Antelope.
Then everybody got upset
And only wise old Parrot said
Loud and clear, above the rest:
«Giraffe is ta-a-a-al —
He knows best.»
«What’s the big deal she has the horns?»
Exclaimed Giraffe with love,
«These days in our fauna
We are equal — everyone.»
«If my own family
Won’t be pleased with her
Don’t you blame it all on me
I will leave the herd.»
Then everybody got upset
And only wise old Parrot said
Loud and clear, above the rest:
«Giraffe is ta-a-a-al —
He knows best.»
Antelope’s father
Doesn’t need such son
We can tell he’d rather
See him dead and gone.
And the Giraffes’ in-law grumbles
«How d’you like this dope?»
So Giraffe moved to the Bisons
With his Antelope.
Then everybody got upset
And only wise old Parrot said
Loud and clear, above the rest:
«Giraffe is ta-a-a-al —
He knows best.»
In the yellow, hot Africa
There is no idyll
He-Giraffe and she-Giraffe
Are crying bitter tears
Only they can’t help their lot
No laws to live by them
Their own daughter got
Married to a Bison.
Giraffe might not been right
But he’s innocent, alright,
Who is to blame? The one who said:
«Giraffe’s ta-a-a-al —
He knows best.»