When alive I was shapely and lordly, Feared nothing them bullets and feelings, Didnít fit a conventional frame. but as soon as my death was recorded, They hobnailed and lamed the Achilles On the pedestal of here fame. Canít shake off my flesh made of granite, Canít extract my world-famous heel From this foundation cement of mine, And the iron ribs embedded in it, The armature I cripplingly feel Sending spasms up the back of the spine. I used to brag about my broad shoulders: "Measureíem, a whole crooked yard!" Didnít know they would fit fooolscap folders Of judgments on the deceased bard. A conventional frame, I got shoved into one As if on some crazy fixed bet, And as for the shoulders, well, son of a gun, They straightened out even that. And no sooner did I up and pass away They my kithíníkin had themselves a race To make a death mask of the dead master. Who put them up to it, I canít say, but for sure the Asiatic bones of my face Got clean shaved off the dazzling plaster. Never reckoned on this even dreaming, Never thought that my fate, even sleeping, Was to end up the deadest of stiffs. But the plaster surface was gleaming, And sepulchral boredom was seeping From my gaping smile without teeth. When alive Iíd never stick a finger in The mouth of a lout. To come to me with the usual yardstick Theyíd think twice about. But I died, and then and there on the cot The undertaker measured me with his rod. Then a year had passed, flown fast, And to crown the newly straightened-out me, For the poeple who came, thronged and horded, They unveiled a bust that was huge and robust, To the deafening roar of loud-speaking glee, Of my own lovely songs, pre-recorded. Suddenly shattered above me was silence, Sound burst forth from the loudspeaking battery, Floodlights lit up the theatrical set-up... And lo, by the powers of modern science, The voice once voiceless with agony Had turned to a pleasing falsetto. Well, I was dumbstruck in my white shroud. "Such in our common share!" This I shouted, a loud-mouthed castrato, Into the crowdís ear. They tore the shroud from me: How thiníe is! "Death, ítis thy doing." Do you really need me like this, My own shoe-in? Hollow sound the Commanderís grim footsteps. Thought I: Iíll have me an amble of old, Take a walk where flagstones and echoes meet. So I did. The crowds scrammed - what a mess! As I wrenched my leg free from the mould, And I let the rubble fall away at my feet. I leant forward a neked and monstruous lump, Out of my skin, trying to stand up straight. Tumbling down, I reached for my rod of iron... Even so, when I hit the ground with a thump, From the busted-up loudspeakers I brayed, "Iím alive!", and it sounded a lot finer.
And that fall, it both broke me And bent me. And again my jawbones protrude From the metal. Didnít manage the way it was wanted, On the quiet. Made my exit publicly flaunted, Out of granite.
© de Cate + Navrozov. Translation, 1995