to Anatoly Garagula
The anchor’s chain with hellish screeches sang, The storm would promise sailors no pardon, The ropes tore the skin on palms and - bang! - “Man overboard!” they heard all of a sudden. And at once: “Full astern! Boats in water!” - Captain was brief in his speech. “Rescue that drowning daughter Or, maybe, son of a bitch!” ...My life on land is hazardous, I guess. Alone to fight the perils I am bound. No one will save me out of a mess, The sirens of alarm will never sound. And my torments nobody will lessen, But, instead, they will prove they are right, Saying: “We’ll teach him a lesson! Let him be sunk in his plight!” My former team will leave me far behind, They must be nobler, cleverer and better... Man overboard! But they will never mind... Man overboard for them will never matter! They’ll rush on, so content, so conceited, On their way, so lit, so broad... If you are floored and defeated, You must be swept overboard! I wish the storm would sweep me out to sea, High waves and winds would greet me on arrival. The cap will put all boats down for me And I will gain good chances for survival! They will pull me with hooks by my robe, (Odds for rescue your garments increase!) And the lifeboat, exactly like hope, With swollen fingers I’ll seize!
I am on board. The ship’s again on course. Folks hand me drinks and hearts of their own. And if once more I go from bad to worse - A life-buoy by these sailors will be thrown. Tortured by storms all year round, Sailors must keep watch and ward... But they will not let him drown, If there’s a man overboard!                
© George Tokarev. Translation, 2002
Edited by Robert Titterton