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Still Life


Oh, the fish counters of years gone by!

The decadent color of the most tender salmon,

the scent of smoked sturgeon, the backs

of glistening, satin salmon flesh. . . .

What to say about the new generation

with its nostalgia for cod filets?

The childish game of pensioners:

How much did which kind of caviar cost?

And the smells in the sardine department!

The plump, Caspian herring, like a buxom woman,

that aristocrat, the Kerch herring:

taste it once, and die!

About tinned crab I won't say anything.

But I'll never tire of repeating until I die

words that I grasped in my youth:

trout, sterlet, char, omul, whitefish!

These fish, just like that bowlegged crab,

only remain as signs of the zodiac.

I'm remembering, not protesting.

The herring dish, long now empty,

with my own hand I cleared from the table. . . .

Everything's past. Youth has gone by.

From "Contemporary Russian Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology" selected by Gerald S. Smith (Indiana University Press: $39.95, cloth, $17.50, paper; 416 pp.) . 1993 by Gerald S. Smith. Reprinted by permission. German Plisetsky is from Moscow. His original poetry began to appear in the West in 1960, but he is better known in the former Soviet Union for his translations of Omar Khayyam and Hafiz.

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