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Russian movie poster, detail.

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Maxim Amelin

Tr. Christine A. Dunbar

To the Statue of Silenus in the Capitolium Museum

The famous guard of a nameless garden,
bearded, shaggy, large,
with a hide thrown over his raised

goat-legged, well-endowed, cloven-hoofed,
between his horns he holds a basket with his left
and from his right dangles
a bunch of grapes.

Why has sorrow lain across your brow, Silenus?
Why is there gloom in your face; why does your head hang?
O, who, tell me, with the directness of a glorious blade,
deprived you of,

no, not of your shame, but of your prick?
For what faults?
Could it be that your tricks counted as crimes?

Forgotten-abandoned by the crowd
those timid nymphs, who turned to impudence,
chase them or not,
it’s all the same,

for you must strike them once you catch them
but with what — your rod is gone.
He who has lost more cannot
fill up the moistly trickling loins
of those who have lost less.
A fragment,

a lustful eunuch has no use,
and no one needs an unarmed man,
that’s why he was placed inside the museum — A thing
for muses to adorn.


For a long time you lay idle in the earth,
until your hour finally
rang, and you awoke, raised your heavy
head, straightened your rigid spine,

your vertebra began to crack, a motley group
of lightning bolts, thunder — a horror to a mortal man.
The heavens shuddered, proud,
scattering large hail — round stones,

morphing in flight into sharp,
long drops, akin to seeds
yearning to sprout, no matter
into what: emerald grass or

brown forest, or still some other young,
thick growth. You lay in the earth for a long time,
idle, useless, but — here it is,
the time which you were honestly awaiting,

for it’s better to sleep, scorning the nugatory bustle,
without waking, without moving, for one’s short age,
than in the dark with tiny steps to wander
by touch along the serrated surface,

occasionally to stumble, laughing,
preaching, “Everything is great, glorious!”
and that’s why you are called, as your true name
is not known, the river speech.


The deadlines soon draw near:
with each passing autumn, waters
dry up, warmth becomes scarce
and the world dies —

everything decays,
everything, by an unseen hand,
in founded. The tenacious
palm weakens,

the former strength of fingers
disappears. Can it really be
that it is time to lie down in the boat,
with a stone clasped to our stomachs?
A fiery dancing riot
shimmering, splashing waves
between the dry land and the swell
and in the middle I am standing,

by the silver light, I’m licked
by trembling wind
from head to toe.

In order to see order
in the chaos of new consonances,
we must pause
along the path.


Tell the flowers, they’ll understand you,
and complain to the flowing birds,
tormented with unsolvable problems,
       trying to rid ourselves
of inner and outer discord — but in vain:
Etna empties fiery ashes skyward.

Ecstasy of a height not known until now,
       liberation — freedom!
But the flights of birds with charred wings,
       and the lifeless flowers,
       burning to the roots without a word,
Foretell neither purgatory nor paradise.

Maxim Amelin

Maxim Amelin

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