I measured in a count-down manner My life that day - as no one did before! My skin with sweat first fired, like a cannon, And smoke came from every single pore. I got cold feet - I clearly remember, I felt myself a frightened, silent stooge. Was it again a lifeless pressure chamber? Was it again a spinning centrifuge? I gained more weight as if becoming fatter, I made no sound as though I was dumb, Next day the papers out of this matter Will fan “big deal” for centuries to come. My memory blew up just like a burster - The images I saw were sharp and true. Here’s my back-up. He could become the first one, But he became the first one number two. For scoops and headlines he’s a small potato - A hero must always be alone! We came together to the elevator, But then I went upstairs on my own. And next I saw the man, so strictly covered, He was top-secret, few could see his face. He had discovered all to be discovered And drew the orbit through the freezing space. As if emerging from the troubled waters, Appeared faces of my friends and wife. Tomorrow they’ll talk to the reporters About their parts in my heroic life! All those men of whom I was aware Of this great fuss will start collecting tolls. My childhood which was hungry, dull and bare Will be dressed up and written down on scrolls. And then I heard a word. This word was “Go!” It sounded that minute like a wail... I heard the nozzles from below me blow, And hot saliva their throats spit away. I couldn’t breathe - or, maybe, didn’t dare! A hurricane of feelings stormed my soul. The planet seized the rocket in despair And held it tight and didn’t let it go. The planet drew us back - me and the rocket, The pull was awful - one may simply die! Each eye of mine sprang out of its socket - Each eye could now look the other in the eye! Cries gagged my mouth. The pain was wild and cruel. The spaceship turned into a burning cage... Then down went, consuming all the fuel, The first, the most powerful stage. Below me shrill sirens (maybe angels?) Began to sing. Was it a praise? A curse? But now roared, like mad, my mighty engines And snatched me then from the embracing Earth. The world sat back - it got some relaxation, And spring resumed its advent, wide and fast. My eyes returned to their normal station, The pain was gone and silence came at last! Board sensors marked my pulse as calm and even, The flight continued as a steady sweep. I flew straight into midnight, skipping evening, And ground controls then ordered me to sleep. They - on the Earth - from me heard no sound, They felt uneasy - kind of I was dead. But radio broke silence all around: “The first man in the history...” - it said. I took my helmet off to ease the tightness, I told them that I was quite OK. I suddenly was caught by some sweet lightness, Which made me dizzy in a certain way. Some wire noosed my neck right when I spoke, My lungs against the ribs insanely struck. Just for a second with my heart I choked - Inside the throat it suddenly got stuck. But I informed all those who were waiting, Who gathered in the underground hall, About my condition: “I am weightless, It’s funny, it’s impossible to fall!” I didn’t know, flying like a comet, Enjoying weightlessness and relishing the day, That later I would puke with bloody vomit, And piss the bone calcium away.
© George Tokarev. Translation, 2001
Edited by Robert Titterton