Dedication

To Dante Alighieri

My dear friend, my master, and my guide,
O Dante, lead me through my life, my purgatory,
Where my emotions and my internal conflicts riot,
From suffering-on to eternal glory!


The Priest

Where am I? Who am I? There is no answer.
Just silence. The Gods don't speak.
There are no omens. My heart's beating faster,
My heart's getting tired and weak.

I'm seeking an answer, but why should I care?
Why not just enjoy while I can?
I cannot. I won't. I'll pore and I'll stare
Until I discern the Gods' plan.


A Prayer

Grant me the will, the desire to serve,
Grant me a compass to show the way,
Grant me a pardon if I have to sverwe,
Grant me quick death if I choose to betray.


Man's Duty

O, what is mankind but a seed of God,
Producing flowers or thorns or weeds
Of different beliefs, of diff'rent thought s and deeds,
Of which some bloom, some die, and others rot?

O, what is man but just a tiny plant
That can be led by Fate to glory or to death,
That cannot have in anything firm faith,
Whose leaves by cruel life are torn and rent?

O, what is life but just a plot of soil
Washed out by the rain, dried out by the sun,
By locusts and by weeds, by mice overrun,
Whose best fruits die, and those who don't-spoil?

But do your duty, man, and bring forth fruit
To ward off evil and promote good!


To Friends of Libery

After the Russian pro-democracy uprising of the "Decembrists", which took place on the Senate Square in St. Petersburg was put down, the tzar summoned Pushkin and asked him where he would be on the day of the uprising had he been in the capital at that time. The great poet replied, "On the Senate Square, of course".

My mind says I'm not guilty. Conscience says, I am.
I wasn't present on the Senate Square.
I have a good excuse: I wasn't born.
But if I was, I wonder, would I dare
To join my friends on that December morn
And make myself a sacrificial lamb?

Nor was I in Beijing-and what is my excuse?
I am alive-and did not join my brothers!
Ideas were correct, but methods-wrong.
And so yet again a tyrant smothers
Young liberty.... Oh say, for how long
Can tyrants win and freedom fighters-lose?

....Your struggle, brothers, will be carried on.
This battle's lost. The war shall yet be won!


The Ultimate Reason

Why do I still fight on? Why is there room for hope
Still left in soul that despair should have filled?
Why do I stubbornly continue to grope
For exits, which, I know, have been sealed?

Perhaps I am too young and haven't tasted fully
The bitter poison of continuous defeats?
Perhaps I am too rash and can't consider coolly
The end with which each aspiration meets?

I know I am weak, I know I'm alone.
The chance of losing's great, the chance of winning-slim.
But even by defeat, perhaps I might atone
For sufferings that fill Earth to the rim.

And maybe on the cross, my body bruised and sore,
My conscience will torment me no more.


Not Everything Is Lost

Not everything is lost. You don't have to hope,
You don't have to wait. It'll come no matter what;
So don't hasten tightening the rope:
Deliverance will come when you expect it not.

When night is dark around you, somewhere
The sun is patiently preparing its return.
Before too long, it shall expand its glare;
When there was night, there suddenly'll be morn.

There is a period to everything, a method;
The strong can lose their strength, the weak-gain might;
Fate brandishes the stick, but sometimes uses carrot.
You cannot always lose-unless you never fight.

A battle lost is not the end to war
When something's left that is worth fighting for.


In Memoriam

To my grandfathers Saul and Nathan, who died fighting the Nazis in World War II

O Allied warriors of the World War II!
How very lucky were you, for you knew:
Your enemy deserved to die,
And you were in the right,
You waged for Truth, against the Lie
A sacred, noble fight!

We, your descendants, are much more confused,
Because now Evil has some Good infused:
It's now often a shade of gray
What was just black and white,
And we for help can only pray
With telling Dark from Light.


Mankind

We've always fought
For what we thought
Was more than worth
Untimely death;

We often cried,
And sometimes died,
But never got
That which we sought.

Yet still again--
Perhaps in vain--
We'll fight and strive--
While we're alive.


A Wake-up Song

It has always so been:
God is nowhere seen,

Everyone is ruled by Gold,
Everything is bought and sold.

On the earth and on the sea,
In the sky-wherever we

Ever take our abode,
Everywhere where the road

Takes us, all we crave the same:
Gold and Power and Fame.

We forget what we were made
For by God, and what he bade

Us to do: to fight for Him
Till hand's weak and mind is dim.

Did the Promethean fire
Get extinguished, or just tired?

It has rested for too long!
Let us wake it with this song!


The Initiation

The darker the shadows of night,
The greater the need for you, knight.
The need for a bringer of light,
The need for benevolent might.

Somebody must set this world right.
Somebody must save it from plight.
Somebody must teach weaklings fight
And give to the blind men sight.

May your guide be justice, not spite.
May your grip on your sword be tight.
May you with it correct every slight.
May you every enemy smite.

If you are ready to fight,
Take this sword, and arise--a knight!


A Toast

Let us drink, and let us drown
Troubles--in the brandy's brown,
Worries--in wine's red and white!
Let us drink all through the night!

May the spirit in the wine
Make us holy and divine!
Let us drink to us! Who else
More deserves of honor, wealth,

Women's love, and dear friends
Who can drink till the night ends?
Let us drink, and let us drown
Troubles--in the brandy's brown!

Let the drink that gives delight
Last until the morning light!
May its spirit make us strong!
Fill the air with this song!

May the wine, like lucky charm,
Keep us all from any harm!
And, be there shine or rain,
Let us here meet again!

Let us drink, and let us drown
Troubles--in the brandy's brown,
Worries--in wine's red and white,
As we drink all through the night!


A Pessimistic Sonnet

There may not be a god. Or He may be unjust,
The Devil sitting on the holy throne.
Perhaps there is nobody I can trust,
Perhaps I'm but a particle of dust,
Tossed up and down by chaotic winds,
And what I'm doing-nobody needs,
And I am in the universe alone?

A temporary life and an eternal death,
Which have of pain--too much, of joy--too little,
A darkened path that leads me through a maze
And ends in nothingness, a fruitless chase--
Are those all the Fortune has in store?
I'll die in bed or in a pool of gore:
Whichever way I turn-result is lethal.


At the Top--and Lonely

"Confucius say: top of ladder nice place.... But lone ly, very lonely."
Found in a fortune cookie

Will I be understood by no one?
Is loneliness the price I have to pay
For seeing that my work on Earth is done?
If this could be the case, I damn the day
On which I was brought forth into this world,
And doubly-that on which I chose my way.

Why do I serve my strict, demanding Lord?
(Or Heaven? or my conscience? or my whim?)
Who shall receive my soul's treasure hoard?
Who'll get the love that fills me to the rim?
Just those dead and those yet unborn?
And whom will all my suffering redeem?

...I must be at the top, since I feel so forlorn.


The Answer

In time of grief,
In hour of sadness,
Remember this, my friend, unwritten law:
It noble is to live
Despite world's madness
And not allow fate to lay thee low.

In time of gloom,
In hour of sorrow,
Remember that it nobler is to be,
And fight against thy doom,
And wait for morrow,
Although the night may seem too long to thee.

Remember: he shall always win
Who straightens up after he has to lean.


An Army of One

The lone soldier from a defeated force,
The one survivor of the Holy War,
Where shall I go now? Take which course?
The war is over-what am I fighting for?

Another day--another battle lost...
Are there others? Am I by myself?
Shall I, alone, face again a host?
Or should I weapons--and all hopes--shelve?

Where is the general I pledged allegiance to?
Did he step down and resign command?
I do not know, but am staying true
To what my honor and my conscience still demand.

I shall fight on and not admit defeat
Until my general has sounded retreat.


Perseverance

A lonely servant of the lone God,
I sometimes feel abandoned by my Master,
And premonitions of approaching disaster
Despair drive into my weary heart.

I am perturbed by seeing Evil win
Another round of the constant battle,
By seeing men become like wolves--or cattle,
By seeing them desert the Golden Mean.

One is too weak, another is too strong.
One is too rash, another is a coward.
And there is no one to lead us forward,
To teach us to distinguish right from wrong.

Until he comes, I will defend my post--
With or without help from Holy Ghost.


My Guide

I do not know if there is a higher being,
If I'll get punishment or will receive reward;
I may be just a slave, or I may be a lord--
I can't see anything but what my eyes are seeing.

For all I know, I may equal the immortals;
This life may be a link in endless chain,
And birth and death may both be but portals
That lead into Eternity's domain.

I only know what I see and what I hear,
What I've been told by people whom I trust;
My knowledge is small, my ignorance is vast,
What baffles me today, tomorrow may be clear--

Or vice versa; Spirit is my guide,
And Reason meekly follows behind it.


My Goal

With saddened heart and disillusioned soul
I look upon my ever distant goal;
Its picture is so clear in my mind;
I try to reach it, yet I'm far behind.

I am the one who set it long ago.
I'd hate myself if I had set it low,
But I admit, or it would be a lie,
I'm sorry I have set it so high.

I have so little hope of succeeding
That when I think of it, my heart starts bleeding;
I'm not afraid to die, but just to fail,
And not to work-to work to no avail.

Yet, though hope be replaced by fear,
I shall fight on for that which I hold dear.


The Armageddon

The day has passed in merriment and joy:
For others, not for me. Apart from them I sit.
The sky is with a blood red glow lit.
It must've looked like this the night the Greeks sacked Troy.

And history repeats. The Trojan horse's brought in.
Guards, sound the alarm! The hour is near!
If we should lose, we'll sell our lives dear!
We shall not live to see Injustice win!

Cassandra's brother, prophet of disaster,
I'd give it all-my soul and my blood,
My seer's talent, cursed gift of God--
To make it never come--or, if it must, come faster:

I want to see the swords bite into flesh
When in the final battle Good and Evil clash!


A Psalm

To Father Ray Cavallo

When the storm has collected his clouds,
When the lightning is ready to strike,
When the groans, the screams, and the shouts
Frighten foe and ally alike;

In the midst of confusion and terror,
When nightmare's as real as life,
When I think all I've done was an error,
When the world with destruction is rife--

I'll remember Thy name to invoke
In the holy language of heart,
And will see light through darkness and smoke,
And will see the storm clouds depart.

And new hope and strength will appear,
And I'll know that Victory's near.


The Tempest

Wind of my worry, wind of anxiety,
Go and fall on the high and the low;
Go and blow away the false piety,
Ungodly lawlessness and evil law.

Rain of my sorrow, rain of my sadness,
Go and fall on the face of the Earth.
Go and chase away light hearted madness,
Flush away careless and heedless mirth.

Tempest of hatred and fury of wrath,
Go and fall on the heads of the evil.
Go and clear for me golden path
Leading to light through the darkness medieval.

Then, sun of Justice, will you freely shine
With heavenly beauty and might divine!


Being a Human

I'm so glad, so deeply satisfied
That I have no extrasensory perception;
Or else--who knows?--I might have defied
The laws of God and Man--without exception.

I'm so pleased, contented, and relieved
That I have so very little power;
If I had more of it, perhaps I'd have conceived
A higher edifice than Babel's tower.

It's nice to know I'm a mortal man
And not above the fight of Evil versus Good,
And that things happen which I don't plan,
That I can't do without drink or food.

The list of all my faults may have enormous length,
But, luckily, I also have my strengths.


Nostalgia

According to a legend, the song of a Phoenix
can make one forget about one's motherland.

O, sing to me, Phoenix, and make me forget
My good old friends and my native land;
O, sing to me softly, and put me to sleep--
So my heart doesn't rip.

O, sing to me, Phoenix, and make me forget,
Make me forgive, make me feel no regret.
O, make me forget that I live in exile--
So my soul can rest for a while.

O, sing to me, Phoenix, and make disappear
All things that I ever thought close and dear;
O, sing to me tenderly, make me reborn
And pull out Nostalgia's thorn.

O, sing to me, Phoenix, and make me forget--
But let me remember the reasons I left.


To WIlliam McCoy

There are too few of us. There never is enough
Of men who dedicated their life
To making melodies that put an end to strife,
That make them who would be consoled-laugh;

That brighten mirth of friends who meet again,
That give them solace when it's time to part;
That give men hope and that lessen pain;
That breathe a spirit into piles of mud;
That honor them who are in battle slain;
That make a man remember he is god.

You are unique, my friend, a priceless gem,
But other diamonds would not make you less dear.
Had there been scores or thousands of them,
My love for you would not be less sincere.


To Bo Berek

Like Ulysses in search of native land,
We roam the Earth in search of an illusion;
But our designs, some modest and some grand,
Come often to a different conclusion:

We search in vain for what we may possess
Without our knowledge already;
But everyone wants more, and no one wants less,
And so we take risks and don't go steady.

Attachments in this world are so very rare,
So often broken without much concern;
Instead of happiness we often find despair,
And what we left behind we often come to mourn.

But, fellow traveller, may Hope be with you:
Ulysses found Ithaca, and you may find yours, too.


To Michael Dudalenko

A wound I thought long healed, re-opened by your tale,
Caused me a throbbing echo of your pain.
When young, we often willingly impale
Our hearts on Cupid's arrows, insane.

We later often wail, or rather yearn to wail
From pain that's caused by our love's disdain;
We blame ourselves when our efforts fail--
But to win love all efforts are in vain.

My friend! You want to cry, you grow pale,
Your heart refuses to believe your brain,
You know not which way to set your sail
To take you farthest from your love, your bane.
I wish you--to survive, and to remain
My friend; and to your ship-a friendly gale!


To Michael Iofin

Another empty day is crawling by...
Where are you? Since we said good bye,
So many empty days have passed,
So many strangers have been cast
To play the role of my friend,
The one you filled until the end...


Harmony

I want to be there, where the wind
Gently talks to the trees,
I want to be where there is no hint
Of strife, but only peace,

I want to be where shadows are cool,
Sunshine is mild and warm,
I want to be where Harmony rules
In each and every form.


A Distant Highway at Night

Can you hear the music, and see dancing lights
Playfully sparkle now here, now there?
Don't rush, stop and stare.
Do you see: everywhere
They pierce this darkest of nights?

Do you see proud myriads of man-made stars
Glide, slide around for no good reason?
Don't rush, stop and listen.
Can you feel air glisten,
Filled with sounds of passing-by cars?


The Wanderer

I want to wander in the East,
Where every morn the sun does rise
To greet each man, each plant, each beast,
With beautiful and shining eyes;

I want to feel the cold of North,
To bathe in scathing South heat,
To see, before the moon comes forth,
The Western sky with sunset lit.

I want to wander far away,
In places unexplored and wild,
With no paths to lead astray;
I want to be the Nature's child;

I want to quietly behold
The magic beauty of the world.


The Magic Key

When by myself through empty fields I walk,
When I am bathing in the magic of the night,
When silence of the world is not disturbed by talk,
When man's "civilization"'s well out of sight*

I know then that Fate shall always mock
The never ending search and ever useless fight
For one evasive key that would pick every lock,
That would enable us to tell what's wrong, what's right.


Satisfaction

To my wife Olga

Alive, I shall be never satisfied,
Shall never feel the happiness sublime;
But dead, I, who has always Death defied,
Will sleep in peace for first and for last time.

When I am gone, and suffer no more,
When Death has put me finally to rest,
The load of the duties that I bore
Will finally be lifted from my chest.

When night has finally replaced the day,
When I have ceased to hear and to see,
My body and my soul even may
Then disappear like a morning mist at sea.

There is one question that still bothers me, just one:
Will I stop loving you when I am gone?


My Qualifications

You keep on telling me, my friend, that I am crazy,
That I'm too arrogant, that I presume too much,
That I'm too old, too ignorant, too lazy,
And that it's time to recognize myself as such;

You keep on telling me that I should act mature,
That times of David and of Joan of Ark have passed,
That I should curb my pride, resisting lure
Of Power and Fame, which don't last.

But it's not power, not fame, for which I'm striving.
Like Moses, I may never see in real life my dream:
A mankind proud, civilized, and thriving--
But if I give it up, I'll lose all self esteem:

A shepherd boy, a peasant girl--their enemies defied.
I hope that I'm not less qualified.


The Promised Land

You have been silent for too long, o Muses!
Apollo, wipe the dust off your eternal lute
And let your voice, no longer mute,
Tell us of lands where nobody loses;

Of blessed lands where everybody gains,
Where evil's conquered and where justice reigns;
Where everybody does exactly what he chooses,
And where his actions hurt no one, but benef it them all;

Where jealousy does not collect its deadly toll;
Where there is no need for contracts and for truces;
Where everyone is judge and no one is thief;
Where nobody's slave and everybody's chief....

And tell us when somebody will be sent
To lead us to that ever promised land!


A Pilgrim's Meditation

So many before me have failed,
And survivors were preciously few;
In the sea drowned those who sailed,
In the sky perished those who flew;

Deep below the ground are buried
They who dared to follow that path;
Of the others-some strayed, some deserted,
Some gave up, some betrayed; all--lost faith.

It's so easy to lose your direction
On the earth full of scorn and rejection,
In the haughty and arrogant sky,

In the sea of corruption and greed,--
But somebody has got to succeed,
So I am determined to try.


My Way

There are so many roads I can choose,
And I can only guess where each one leads.
It doesn't matter. I shall win or lose
Depending on God's will and mortals' deeds.

Position of the stars or mere chance
Perhaps control my failure or success;
Or they are predetermined in advance
And I will get no more and no less

Than what was written in the holy book
By God or Satan when the world was born.
It matters not. The road I just took
May make me happy, or may make me mourn,

But it will never cause me to regret
The goal for the journey I have set.


The Coming of Spring

O, how cold you are, the final winds of winter!
Last snow, how brightly do you glitter!
But fear and confusion I can sense
As Winter's making ready her defense.

Yes, everything is ready for a change!
From somewhere beyond my senses' range,
Somewhere hidden from my ears and my eyes,
I feel the rising waters smashing ice.

Below, in the whitened, frozen earth
The grass is only waiting to spring forth;
And up above, still in the snow sleeves,
The branches are all set to bring forth leaves;

And, in suspense--a tightened bowstring--
The whole world is ready for the spring!


A Final Wish

It fortunately doesn't happen often,
But sometimes in the middle of the night
I wake up wondering who'll follow my coffin,
And who will follow my quest for Right.

I cannot bargain with my Fate, I don't know
When time will come for me to say good-bye,
From where, where to, and how will I go,
And if I'll live again after I die.

I've always tried, and will continue trying
To make this world a better place to live,
To fight against the Entropy and dying;
And when my turn will come to leave--

For hell, for nothingness, of for eternal grace--
I'll only wish that someone'd take my place.