Hide Under the Blanket and Pull It Over Your Head

Lyudmyla Khersonsky
Translated from the Russian by Olga Livshin & Andrew Janco

Did you know that if you hide under a blanket and pull it over your head,
then, for sure, World War II won't happen? Instead,
lie there don't breathe, don't let your feet stick out,
or, if you do, stick one out bit by bit.
Or try this helpful trick to stop a war:
first, carefully stick out one foot, then the other, now touch the floor,
lay back down, turn to one side, facing the wall,
turn your back to the war:
now that it's behind your back, it can thrash and shred,
you just close your eyes, pull the blanket over your head, stock up on bread,
and when you just can't deal with caring for peace anymore,
tear off some chunks, and when the night comes, eat what you've stored.

 

***

На самом же деле, если укрыться одеялом вот так, с головой,
тогда сто процентов не будет второй мировой,
главное, лежать не дышать, не высовывать из-под одеяла ногу,
или высовывать, но понемногу.
Иногда можно вот так остановить войну -
осторожно высунуть ногу, потом еще одну,
потом повернуться на бок, лицом к стене,
спиной развернуться к войне -
пусть за спиной делает что попало,
нужно только зажмурить глаза, на голову натянуть одеяло,
запастись хлебом, и когда мир сторожить станет совсем невмочь,
отламывать его по кусочку и есть всю ночь.

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Image of Lyudmyla Khersonsky

Lyudmyla Khersonsky is a poet and translator from Odesa, Ukraine. She is the author of four poetry collections in Russian. In 2022 her joint volume with the poet Boris Khersonsky, her husband, came out in English translation from Lost Horse Press, titled The Country where Everyone’s Name is Fear. Khersonska was recently included in the list, “33 International Women Writers Who are Bold for Change” by Words without Borders.

Headshot of Olga Livshin

Olga Livshin‘s poetry and translations appear in the New York Times, Ploughshares, the Kenyon Review, and other journals. She is the author of A Life Replaced: Poems with Translations from Anna Akhmatova and Vladimir Gandelsman (Poets & Traitors Press, 2019) and a co-translator of A Man Only Needs a Room, a volume of Vladimir Gandelsman’s poetry, forthcoming from New Meridian Arts Books later this year.

Andrew Janco’s translations are published in The New York Times, Ploughshares, and other journals, and are included in the anthology Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine. With Olga Livshin, he is the co-translator of A Man Only Needs a Room, a volume of Vladimir Gandelsman’s poetry. Andrew works as a digital scholarship programmer at the University of Pennsylvania libraries.

Cover of the Book, The Country Where Everyone's Name Is Fear

Sandpoint, Idaho

Boris Khersonsky and Lyudmyla Khersonsky write poetry that speaks to the crisis of our time, when refugees run from bombardments, nonstop propaganda flows from TV, and neighbors begin to hate their neighbors. The setting is Ukraine at the start of the twenty-first century, but it is eerily recognizable anywhere.

These brief lyric poems speak about the memory of historical trauma and witness stark individual voices that pierce the wall of complacency. What is the music of such times? What is its metaphysics? This collection gives us an unflinching, memorable response.

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