Monologue of a Russian Woman #4

translated by Ainsley Morse
Victoria Lomasko, from the graphic reportage A Generational Battle (2021), from the book La última artista soviética (Barcelona: Godall edicions, 2022) / Courtesy of the artist

i feel personal guilt in this conflict

lots of people talk about collective guilt
but i don’t think that it’s collective
for me

for me it’s personal guilt

well how come
i live in this country pay taxes
which pay for weapons and feed the army

i didn’t always vote
just didn’t go sometimes to the elections

i wasn’t an activist

i didn’t go out to the protests
when they passed the law
discriminating against lgbtq people’s rights
propaganda for minors

and now they’re going to apply it to everyone

this means all literature will be prohibited
almost all

in society we are like streams
made up of some kind of force
and until we become visible
we don’t exist
for the people who make decisions

and i feel guilty about this
that i wasn’t visible

politics despite the fact that i worked for the state
didn’t take up a lot of space in my life

for me people were more important
i never refused to help
to consult
you could always just call me

politics turned into
a high-quality approach to business
but it shouldn’t have been like that

and i feel guilty
i should have been more active
gone out
found the words

if every one of us will do something
the situation will start to change

* * *

this is not the cancellation of russian culture
it is just the pain of ukrainians
powerful to such a degree

the desire to be understood
that is, understand us

when they bomb us
understand us

it can be simple now
sit at home

can one under these circumstances
publish books
date, read poems
in russian?

probably yes but probably still
not all texts can be read

compassion is one thing
poetry is another

you can make a certain gesture
an antimilitaristic one

say that it shouldn’t be like this

that this is a war crime

there is support in this
even though this too is you know painful
in russian

like how after the second world war
people would hear german spoken
and start shaking
that’s probably what this is like now
russian makes people shake

this is not russian’s fault
the circumstances are to blame

it’s a disaster over there of course
but over here everyone is also horrified

and you too might have
the need to say something
to take part in something

many people are trying to write
to somehow send the signal

“i feel your pain

i’m here i’m nearby


don’t think there are rocks here”

this signal
may go out into the void
but sometimes this is important
for the person
giving it

Translation from the Russian

Maria Malinovskaya, born in Belarus, is a Moscow-based poet who writes in Russian. She is a PhD student in contemporary poetry studies at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus and author of two books of documentary and language poetry. Her poetry has appeared in translation in English, Spanish, Italian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Polish. Her poem “white-red-white flag,” based on the events of the Belarusian protests, was honored with a 2021 Poesia Prize.

Ainsley Morse teaches in the Russian department at Dartmouth College and is a translator of Russian, Ukrainian, and former Yugoslav literatures. Her research focuses on the literature and culture of the postwar Soviet period, particularly unofficial or “underground” poetry, as well as contemporary russophone poetry, East European avant-gardes, and children’s literature.