By Larisa Miller

Translated by Natalie Roy

A Lyrical poem investigating the changing landscape of the megacity Moscow, from one of the country’s foremost poets, Larisa Miller.



Along the Garden Ring and Begovaya

They’re digging incessantly here and there,

Huge sledgehammers pounding

At the shabby houses condemned to demolition,

To the accompaniment of rumbling behemoth-machines.

But in the dead of night there’s not a sound

While people scorch and demolish themselves

Within the limits of their own souls.


* * *


Living in the city we lament

That pneumatic rollers mutilate it,

And bulldozers rip it open.

Looking at the river we lament

That it looks as a sick orphan, a withered cripple.

We grieve for what has been a grove,

And this wood looking depressed and skinny.

Living in my native land I grieve for it,

I miss it but desire no other land.


* * *


Snow-white pigeons soar over the shed.

I wish I could borrow from them

All their white to cover our winter.

White feathers for the bare forest

And the nearby streets and lanes.

I yearn to walk along them

Away from my chores and words,

Into the woods and the fields,

Carrying the quiet feathers on my shoulders.


* * *


Today I won’t circumvent the crowd to overtake

The people hurrying ahead of me.

I wander leisurely along the much-trodden Petrovka

With its forests of shop windows and seas of pedestrians,

Craving to possess all things on sale,

Not missing a single booth.

They desire these things like a forbidden fruit,

And there is no end to eager shoppers.

I wander aimlessly with this human flow

And amidst those hundreds souls I’m all alone.

I endeavor to understand the temptations of the city

Like a provincial girl first time in the capital.

I’m not resisting my earthly passions

As I dissolve in the hustle of the day.

And imperceptibly an expectation of a miracle

Fills in my heart beyond my will.

Born in 1940 Larissa Miller has a degree from the Foreign Languages Institute in Moscow and later taught at Moscow University. A major lyrical poet, she is the author of 28 books, including Nameless Day; My Land and Home; Let’s Talk about the Paradoxes of Love; Holidays, Holidays; Between the Cloud and the Pit. She has been published in translation in many countries, including two poetry collections published by Arc Publications in the UK.

Dim and Distant Days (English translation published by Glas) is her book of memoirs looking back over nearly five decades of Soviet history to her hungry but happy childhood in post-war Moscow; her coming of age as a Jewish girl in an anti-Semitic regime; her encounters with the KGB as an English interpreter in the 1960s, and again in the 1980s as the wife of the famous human rights activist Boris Altschuler. Winner of several poetry prizes she was short-listed for the State Prize for literature in 2000.