from KGB Poems

Igor Pomerantsev

Alright, so they didn't twist my arms,
but they burnt Mark's door,
took Grisha out into a forest near Kiev
and fucked him over.
They kept calling Olga a whore,
and to prove their point
locked her up in an STD clinic with the prostitutes.
It was only with Geli they went too far
in the remand prison.
They refused treatment, refused treatment,
refused treatment, refused treatment,
until he died.

During nights so foggy
you want to cut it with a knife,
barrack blocks loom out of the brown light.
From their fetid dormitories
comes a clanking and rattling,
bringing dreams of Kalashnikovs to some.
Hospitals loom,
where putty-faced patients and their putty-faced relatives
sit waiting in admissions.
A prison looms;
its team won
the regional judo contest.
Things loom
which you didn't see during the day.

Organizing a wedding during a time of plague
was completely stupid.
But I couldn't say no to my bride's parents.
They invited their friends to the restaurant
and drank our health.
There was a man with a camera, too – a wedding photographer.
But away at the back of the room I noticed
another photographer – uninvited.
I wonder, are the pictures still in the KGB archive?
And the audio tapes of my assignations?
Would I want to hear the sounds of the love we made
thirty years ago? I'm not certain.

After midnight you come outside and immediately spot
two clots of night, in each of which
in the dim half-light
three men, not counting the driver, lurk silent.
You kick off from the asphalt floor of the city,
and the black clots, submarines of the night, glide after you,
not switching on their headlights. Your heart slowly tears loose
from the body, and slips in the opposite direction,
pretending to be a sea urchin or oyster.
And the more sinister this night-time voyage,
the sweeter will be the memory of it, but nevertheless
don't button up your raincoat, come and overnight with us if only one last time.

What was the most unpleasant?
Them picking me up on the beach in my trunks.
The first day I kept running from the interrogation to the toilet
every thirty minutes.
My interrogator asked brightly:
"You got the clap or something?"

translated from the Russian by Frank Williams