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Russian movie poster, detail.

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Nikolai Baitov

Tr J. Kates


The birds want to hold back the sunset with their furious cries. —

The sun pays no attention: It sets. The birds are in despair: Night!

When they wake up, the birds remember their grievance in the

                                 darkness and start wailing.

The sun obediently rises. The birds are proud: Daylight! . . .

Your stupidity is like the stupidity of birds.


There was a madman. All year long
he dragged and drooped, but when
September rolled itself around ―
he came to life again.

He went through the autumn woods,
and picked up all the leaves
and carefully wrote out on them
the right names of their trees:

hickory, sycamore, and maple
beech, butternut and elm ―
he performed this endless labor
labeling them all:

Behind him, as he walked away,
the leaves he had inscribed
settled their susurrant layers
in the quiet wild.

He would say, “I’m no creator,”
“Nothing is my own idea.
Whatever God has made in nature
I recognize as holy.

But I’ve been given letters and wit
in these critical days, to save
the disposition and the fitness
of life as it is lived.”

Nikolai Baitov

Nikolai Baitov

Kolya Baitov graduated from Moscow State University as an engineer. In the 1980s he edited and printed the samizdat Epsilon Salon. He is one of the founders of the Zverev Center in Moscow. He is the author of three books of poetry and is a recipient of the Andrei Bely Prize. In 2007 he was awarded a Brodsky Grant.

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