The Year - 1941
by Isa Ismayilzade (1941-1998 )

The year of my birth
Is forever bound
With the name of the Unknown Soldier.
That dark, stern year
Born in trenches,
In smoke,
And fire,
The year of my birth.

The year of my birth
Scarred the breast of the earth
Like a jagged bayonet wound.
On the breast of the earth.
Soldiers' iron-shod boots
The year of my birth.
Across the dark sky
Fire-breathing cannons
Spat out the date.
In clouds on high
Wild scorching rockets
That could melt distant stars
Etched that cursed year.
And bereaved mothers' eyes
Engraved that black year
In the pillows they soaked
With many a salty tear

I never wish to celebrate
The year of my birth,
For fear lest I wake,
By the clinking of glasses and noisy mirth,
All those who sleep in memory's vaults.

I wish never to celebrate
The year of my birth.
For sorrow will never cool
Like food long grown cold
On my older dead brother's plate.
My sense of loss and guiltless shame
Are keenest of all
When I look up and see
His portrait on the wall
In its simple black frame.

Translated by Diana Russell for "Soviet Literature," Vol. 9, 1978 edited by Savva Dangulov.

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