My leaves are green, although my trunk is splintered,
And my old bark is blackened and decayed.
I live alone, surrounded by buildings.
I just stand here in the wind, and sway.

The sky is not as blue as I remember.
When snow comes, it never seems to last.
The winds are not as bitter in November,
The soil – not as sweet as in the past.

When I first sprouted here with my brothers,
My crown barely peaked above the grass.
Large mammoths herds were grazing the horizons.
We were afraid that they would trample us.

I have seen giant sloths and giant bears
As a small sapling reaching for the sun,
But they’ve been gone for thousands of years.
Sometimes I wonder – where have they gone?

Then humans came, with their stone-tipped arrows.
We laughed at them – the ugly, naked beasts.
I realize that we should’ve been scared,
But back then we weren’t scared in the least

For we were young, and racing for the clouds.
We’ve grown too big, we thought, for them to hurt.
There were so many of us, and we were so proud,
And we knew so little of the world.

Mankind brought death to us death by axe and fire,
And thus the slow holocaust begun:
Each year, as I grew a little higher,
My brothers fell around me, one by one.

Yet still I grew – us trees are meant to grow.
Nobody asks us when, or where, or how.
I stored up black hatred in my soul
As I fed on the shit from their cows

Until I was the last one left, the highest
Point on the land, and now it was my turn
To make them pay. They burned us down with fire?
I’d make my own fire and watch them burn!

One summer night, as lightening was dancing
From cloud to cloud, and the grass was dry,
I reached into the heavens with my branches
And snatched the lightening out of the sky.

But it had turned on me and scorched my crown;
My very core splintered from the blow,
And as the burning bits of me rained down,
I wondered – how did I get so low?

I meant to kill! I wanted to destroy –
But I was just a tree, how could I win?
In agony, I cursed the very soil
From which I grew, as flames gnawed on my limbs.

I fell apart, defeated and decrepit,
Engulfed in unimaginable pain.
That’s when the humans hurried to my aid;
Those very humans came to fight the flames!

Oh, I was helpless, I was ripe for slaughter,
But they had saved me. Patient and kind
They soothed my burning stumps with cooling water.
That was the day I made peace with mankind.

I gained a new insight from my ordeal,
I was illuminated as I fell:
I realized how small mankind must feel
When my own folly brought me to their level.

I saw that some of them weren’t like the others.
And who was I to choose which ones should live?
Besides, their death would not bring back my brothers,
I doubt it would even ease my grief.

The fire broke my trunk, but healed my spirit.
I wouldn’t die, I hung on by the roots.
The following spring first tender leaves appeared
As I reached for sky with brand new shoots.

The humans cheered at my resurrection;
They were amazed I managed to survive.
I will admit, I basked in their affection –
I was so grateful just to be alive!

A truce was reached: they took away the cows.
(Small victory I gained from my defeat.)
They built a park around me, and now
They bring their offspring to play at my feet.

As their generations come and go,
I watch their city gradually expand.
If humans are like trees and need to grow –
They’ve earned the right to grow on my land.

Copyright 2014 @ Julie Deshtor

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Shark Attack

If you are into swimming, you should know
That a great white attacked a man offshore.
He dove in from his boat, and to his horror
There was a great white waiting down below.

But our diver did not show fear.
He told the shark: “You are not welcome here.”
And just so that his point would be clear,
He poked its snout with his fishing spear.

He backed against a reef and stood his ground,
Though that shark must’ve weighed a thousand pounds,
And every time it tried to come around,
He poked and poked and poked it in the snout.

The shark, he thought, mistook him for a seal.
He almost became that monster’s meal,
And only his resolve and strength of will
Had gotten him alive through that ordeal.

But there’s another angle to that story:
A shark was swimming though its territory,
When suddenly, without saying: “Sorry,”
A man fell in and scared off its query.

The shark was puzzled by the whole affair;
‎Such an occurrence was extremely rare‎
As far as it knew – humans needed air.‎
It wondered what the man was doing there.

But every time it swam up to find out
The human rudely poked it in the snout.
This human was aggressive.  No doubt
It’s best to warn the other sharks about it.

With its pride injured and it’s snout sore,
It dutifully went about its chore,
And now all the sharks around know
A human has attacked a shark offshore.

Copyright @ Julie Deshtor 2014‎

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Lost genius.  ‎(What bothers me about modernity – Part 2)

Part 2: Overcrowding
I am not going to go into the usual concerns associated with the word: the impending doom of dwindling resources; the inevitable competition between various human populations; the destruction of habitats and species; the potential for catastrophic epidemics; the wide-spread loss of reproductive drive in those modern human societies, where religious beliefs are not a major factor influencing reproductive choices.  All these issues have been studied, documented, debated, and addressed in literature, educational films, and big screen productions.
One aspect of over-population I have never seen addressed is ‎the devalument of geniuses. ‎
Awe-inspiring leaders, daring reformers, great poets, fabled military minds, legendary explorers, brilliant scientists, revered ‎prophets, extraordinary beauties, men and women or inhuman strength and endurance, saints, saviors, geniuses of all sorts and fashions – where are they today?
They still exist, no doubt. Statistically speaking, there are more of them alive now than there ever was before.  ‎If we are to estimate the population of ancient Athens at roughly 250,000, and claim that one super-human athlete per generation was born in Athens, than, estimating current world population at 7,125 billion, roughly 28,500,000 super-human athletes are alive today!
How many of those can you identify right now? How many Nobel Prize winners do you know by name? Me, personally – less than a dozen.
The modern geniuses are all around us, I am certain of it. But they are lost amidst the crowds. Diamonds are only precious if there is a shortage of them. They are worthless in an over-saturated market.  
How many Homers, Shakespeares, Jesuses, Napoleons, Aristotles, Darwins, Caesars, Elizabeths, Charlemagnes, Mozarts, Augustuses, da Vincis, Genghis Khans, Galileos, Ciceros, Teslas, Joans of Arc and Bismarcks do we pass every day on the street, never realizing that it was greatness sitting next to us at a local Starbucks?  ‎Too many.  They go unnoticed and unrecognized, indistinguishable from the multitudes.    
‎The 21st century has created an interesting paradox, where brilliance often goes by unseen, yet those people who would like nothing more than to be left alone find themselves stripped of all privacy. But that’s the subject of the next post. 

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What bothers me about modernity – Part 1

I have decided to start a new series of post regarding the things that bother me regarding the modern world. Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Part 1

What bothers me about modernity is the dissipation of normal human social structures. Man is a social and family animal. Human initial (even prior to modern medicine) longevity has permitted for several generations to co-exist, passing on knowledge and traditions; blood and marriage bonds always have been the ce‎ment that held societies together. That interconnectedness is quickly fading, and we are getting a new species of man in the developed world, the solitary hunter type. Grandparents move to Florida or to a retirement home, the kids move out at 18 to another city, and a babysitter is responsible for nurturing of toddlers. Not one babysitter, but usually a quickly changing myriad of different ones. In our vastly overcrowded cities we often find ourselves completely alone, with no family to fall back on and no tradition to carry us forward. Grandparents cannot not pass their wisdom to the next generations, because they are in Florida! Lol. Old age is treated as an embarrassment, rather than a value. And that is just to begin with. The next topic would be overcrowding, but I will leave that for another time.

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Mountain Echo

“The Execution of the Mountain Echo,” Vladimir Vysotsky: translation by Julie Deshtor:

Upon mountain slopes, which the daredevils consider their Mecca, their Mecca,
Where winds blow wild and jagged peaks puncture the sky, puncture the sky,
There once had resided a good-natured mountain (mountain) echo –
It used to respond to a cry, desperate human cry.

When loneliness swells in your throat and cuts off your air (your air),
And your lips let out a sigh that nobody can hear (that no one hears) –
This quiet plea for help the kind echo would pick (would pick up) with care,
Preserve, amplify and deliver it right to your peers.

Were they beast or men – high on poison and drunken on ale (on ale)?
They didn’t want anyone to hear them howl and brag (howl an brag),
And so they conspired to cripple the mountain (mountain) vale.
They tied up the echo and they silenced it with a gag.

It went on all night – the obscene bloody orgy of violence.
They stomped on the echo and yet no one heard a sound.
By morning a firing squad executed the echo in silence,
And boulders, like tears, rolled down the face of the mountain.
And boulders, like tears, rolled down the face of the mountain.
And boulders, like tears, rolled down the face of the mountain.

Copyright@Deshtor 2013

Posted in Literature and Writing, Poems, Russian to English Translations by Julie Deshtor, Updates, Vladimir Vysotsky Russian to English translations | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I am pacing…

I am pacing like a caged panther.

I am growling at the crowd.

White-hot, glowing, molten anger –

Let me go, let me go, let me out!

I will break free somehow, I swear,

of the present which makes no sense,

like the infamous whistling arrow

I will shoot for Eurasian grasslands.

Keep your progress and keep your science –

things that I do not understand;

here the sky is embossed with diamonds,

here the death mounds observe a silence

over endless expanse of land.

Here the Scyths and the Mongols mingle

their shadows and their blades;

here the wings of a passing eagle

brush the ghosts in their graves.

Here the soil is rich with slaughter,

here wild horses still roam,

here the Danube’s primeval water,

like a wraith of the Empire’s boarder,

still keeps Nomads apart from Rome.

Here wind drowns out the sound

of the hooves and the battle cries.

There are memories in this ground;

in my own Mongoloid eyes.

Leave me here and do not meddle –

I’m at home in the sea of grass.

Give a horse to me – keep the saddle –

just the horse, that is all I ask.

Copyright @ Julie Deshtor 2012

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Getting your shit out of my house…

Getting your shit out of my house –
Like stench of rot out of my mouth:
You were so sweet, such a good boy,
I now know it was a ploy
To take my family and life.
Of course you took me for your wife!
I had the things you never had –
Real friends, a loving mom and dad.
You played your part, and I was blind:
You were so nice, you were so kind!
Without decency or pride
You lied and lied and lied and lied.
Though for one thing I will take blame –
I didn’t recognize your game.
But that’s alright. You went too far.
Now we all know who you are.
Live your own life and don’t touch mine.

You don’t deserve a better rhyme.

copyright @ Julie Deshtor 2013

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A WWII poem by a Soviet Soldier

This is a poem written by a Russian (Soviet) soldier during World War II, right before Soviet Union launched a defensive counter attack against Hitler’s army. It had such an impact on me that I had to translate it.

To my friend who is writhing in agony –
Don’t call out to those you had loved,
Instead, listen, let me warm my hands a bit
On hot steam rising up from your blood.

You aren’t wounded, don’t moan, you are not a kid;
You’ve been killed, there is no going back.
Let me keep instead the warm boots off your feet –
We both know I still have to attack.

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The album Two Fates by Astrakhan and Naumov – Vysotsky in English

Vadim Astrakhan, in collaboration with Yuri Naumov, has just released his new CD of Vladimir Vysotsky’s songs translated into English – “Two Fates“.

Vladimir Vysotsky in Engles translation

Album Two Fates Vladimir Vysotsky in English, Vadim Astrakhan and Yuri Naumov

As a little girl living in Moscow, I was immersed in the world of Vladimir Vysotsky’s songs. Then, twenty years ago, my family relocated to the United States.  Since then, I have obtained my English degree from the University of Utah and launched my own literary career.

As a bilingual poet and writer, I have been actively translating not only Vysotsky’s work, but also the work of other Russian-speaking poets such as Sergei Esenin, Marina Tsvetaeva, Anna Akhmatova, and others. Of these, I have found Vysotsky most challenging.  His multi-layered and complex language is particularly difficult to capture.

I have been following Vadim Astrakhan’s music and his translations of Vysotsky for some years now, and anticipated, with certain trepidation, the release of his new album “Two Fates”.  I knew of Vadim’s desire to modernize Vysotsky’s songs. I was also acutely aware of his love for the heavy metal genre. The idea of Vysotsky’s lyrics performed to a heavy metal/hard rock accompaniment was intimidating, to say the least.

Well, I must say that Vadim managed to pull it off! Though I’m not a fan of heavy metal, I can’t help but say that the music, production and presentation of “Two Fates” is superb.

The songs:

“Gypsy Blues (Tziganskaya)” has literally been given a new life, with lyrics, music and ambiance that brought it into the new century, allowing English-speaking listeners to experience the raw energy and intensity of this long-time Russian favorite.

“When the Great Flood Waters Had Subsided” was never one of my favorites as performed by Vysotsky.  To my utter surprise, I found that I enjoyed Vadim’s version of this song more than I ever did the original.

Other personal favorites: “Race to the Horizon”, “Tale of the Wild Boar” and “A Merry Funeral Song” skillfully convey the original tone and implication of the songs.

At the same time, my English-speaking friends, especially those with military background, are deeply moved by “Death Convoy.” Others are amused by Vadim’s rendition of the “Why Did the Savages Eat Captain Cook.” A few professional rock climbers that I know relate well to Vadim’s version of “If Your Friend.”

Overall, the album is a resounding success. Through his daring and unique vision, Vadim Astrakhan has managed to achieve what few had considered possible: he brought the spirit of Vladimir Vysotsky’s work into the modern age and in a format that is meaningful, accessible and engaging to the present-day English-speaking audience.

 Julie Deshtor, 2012



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I think that i would like to die tonight (poem)

I think that I would like to die tonight;
I am so tired of this endless war.
Yet here I stand again, prepared to fight
For things that do not matter anymore.

I am the door you slam when you are mad.
I am the dirty dishes in the sink.
I am the monster underneath your bed –
That fragile, scary and familiar thing…

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