Fyodor Svarovsky
tr. Peter Golub

At ten
Dreamed of befriending a robot
At fourteen imagined how he'd marry an android girl
And at twenty he thought of changing his organic body
For the benefits of silicon

He studied engineering
Joined an artificial intelligence group
Spent his summers not on the beach
But in the monitor
Took only virtual vacations

We see
For him the earth is not enough
And even relatives are a burden
In fact
No one is gladdened by anyone

The Chinese are annoyed with the Indians
Russians are hated by the Poles
Germans are always complaining about the French

The Arabs say they are Bolivians
In Europe
They say they are in fact Kenyan
And have surgery: trading their ears, hair, faces

Everyone is searching for something else
And chagrined about something as well
No one wants to be as they were born
And gleefully forget their native speech
The city where they walked and went to school

The white man wants a Haitian
The motorcyclist spends his money on reeducating
Himself to be a tank driver

And this one's at it again:
Only robots know how to love
For infidelity never crosses their mind
What could be stronger than the attachment
Of inorganic materials,
The objective, incorruptible bonding
Of inorganic molecules?
What is more sincere than an electron?
Don't want to eat or drink
Don't know death
The artificial heart preoccupied with love

They only love, hope
Suffer, pine

There was this boy
A friend's son
Who broke his arm
Cracked his elbow
The doctor said: of course
It's not worth mending

Replaced it with a metal one

The boy
Never felt better:
Doesn't even smell of clone
Half Tatar, half Jew

Walks around full of hubris
I'm like a cyborg now

(and this is only the beginning)

I already have 124 grams
Of inorganic matter
Inside me

His mother's father
(Who happens to be a mullah)
Keeps nodding off
Watches the television
Completely confused
Asking: what does all this mean?
Ah he says: it's sad
What is this?
I understand nothing
What do people say to one another?

And everything is
Isn't what it is
No good left for you
Not even real evil left in the world





I've been translating Russian poetry for about two years now, and the two criteria I use when choosing a poem for translation are: 1) is the poem having fun; 2) does that fun translate into English. Fyodor Svarovsky fulfills these two criteria perfectly. His sci-fi poems remind me a little of Kurt Vonnegut's prose. Both of these authors use the fantastic to get at some of our universal human desires —to be better than who we are, to find a form or shape that truly represents us, to somehow transcend the solitude built into this reality.