Sergei Esenin and Anton Yakovlev

Art: Marian Hooper Adams

To Kachalov’s Dog

Give me your paw, Jim, for good luck.
I’ve never seen such a paw.
Let’s bark together, while the moon is out,
At the quiet, noiseless weather.
Give me your paw, Jim, for good luck.

Please, buddy, don’t lick so much.
Let’s both at least understand the basics.
You don’t know what life is.
You don’t know what it costs to live in the world.

Your master is lovely and famous,
And often has many guests,
And each of them smiles and tries
To touch your velvet coat.

For a dog, you’re devilishly beautiful,
So pleasant with your trusting charm.
And, without asking anyone,
You go for a kiss like a drunken friend.

My dear Jim, there have been so many
Folks of all kinds among your guests.
But did the saddest and the quietest one
Stop by here, by any chance?

She’ll come, I give you my word.
And in my absence, staring into her eyes,
Please gently lick her hand on my behalf
For everything I was and wasn’t guilty of.

–Sergei Esenin (1895-1925)
–Translated from Russian by Anton Yakovlev


Get Away from the Window

Don’t come under my window
And don’t trample the green grass;
I fell out of love with you long ago,
But don’t cry, keep calm and don’t talk.

I pity you with all my soul.
What do you care about my beauty?
Why don’t you leave me in peace,
And why torment yourself like this?

I won’t be yours anyway,
I don’t love anyone now.
I don’t love, but I do pity you.
Get away from my window!

Forget that I used to be yours,
That I used to be mad about you;
Now I don’t love but pity you—
Get away and stop torturing yourself!

–Sergei Esenin (1895-1925)
–Translated from Russian by Anton Yakovlev


Her Favorite Song

Every night she writes lyrics
just to print them out and set them on fire.

The ashes glide through her kitchen
and settle in corners like hills of cayenne pepper.

When no words remain, she goes to sleep.
Her hair flashes yellow from the traffic light outside.

The right ones never check in on her, and the wrong ones are always around
but have enough tact to mostly remain unnoticeable.

When she steps onstage, she doesn’t care
if the audience sings along.

They send her eighty-nine love letters a day.
She never opens them.

When she collects enough, she will build a papier-mâché blimp
and scatter the ashes all over Gothenburg, Sweden.

–Anton Yakovlev

Anton Yakovlev was born in Moscow, Russia. He studied film making and poetry at Harvard University. He is the author of poetry chapbooks Neptune Court (The Operating System, 2015), The Ghost of Grant Wood (Finishing Line Press, 2015), and Ordinary Impalers (Aldrich Press, early 2017). His poems are published or forthcoming in The New Yorker, The Hopkins Review, Fulcrum, Prelude, Measure, and elsewhere. His book of translations of poetry by Sergei Esenin is forthcoming from Sensitive Skin Books in late 2016. He has also directed several short films.

A prominent twentieth-century Russian poet, Sergei Esenin (1895-1925) was one of the founders of the short-lived but influential Imaginist movement in Russian poetry, which stood in contrast to futurism and was related to Imagism in English. Originally from a peasant background, Esenin spent most of his adult life in Petrograd (later Leningrad, now St. Petersburg), but most of his poetry focused on nature and traditional rural life. In 1921 he married the American dancer Isadora Duncan and traveled with her all over Europe and the United States, but their marriage was stormy and short-lived. By 1925 Esenin was suffering from severe depression and alcoholism, and had received treatment for a nervous breakdown. Though he initially supported the Bolshevik regime, the poet became disenchanted with it, criticizing the encroaching effects of Soviet industrialization. According to the official version, on the night of December 27, 1925, he hanged himself after writing his final poem in his own blood.
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