Poems Dedicated to Nella Khanis on Her Birthday

2008

Another year has passed. The world got warmer,
Except for places it got rather cold.
The oil was up, and so was too gold,
The latter higher than the former.
The Dow was a poor performer
(Perhaps it was oversold?).
Iraq got stable, we were told,
And Putin was a “bold reformer”.

And yet, and yet… With all the changes,
There something reassuring remains.
There is someone who still maintains
The priceless bonds of friendship; who arranges
And manages; someone who ranges
Through every borough’s streets and lanes
In her attempt, that never wanes,
To find a perfect place for munchies.

What price stability? It’s more than gold and oil.
What price such friendship?—Who on earth can tell?
It’s a commodity one cannot buy or sell.
It anchors our world that’s in turmoil.
For this, and for your selfless ardious toil
To find a restaurant that can feed us so well,—
It hasn’t done so yet; I know that it shall,—
Accept my thanks, dear Nella. This is all.


2009

The month of Janus, god of endings and beginnings,
The month of January, vanguard of the year,
Is great for taking stock of losses and of winnings,
Of what we loath and of what—hold dear.

When in the coldest month of long and dreary winter
You’re sitting with your friends and sharing a bottle,
Time doesn’t crawl—it runs like an Olympic sprinter;
You feel alive; you’re living at full throttle.

The door is open wide to hope and new chances.
The gaping wounds we suffered, time will heal and suture.
What’s past is past. Behold, a better year advances,
So let us drink to better, brighter Future!

And let us drink to Nella, offspring of great Janus:
May her bright laughter always ring among us!


2010
A Song of Nella

To the tune of “Песня о Волге”
“Many songs have been sung ’bout Nella...”
                (Anon.)

Global warming… Where are you? Hello?
Winter’s here, and it is not warm.
So much for Al Gore’s tale of woe.
We are bracing for a snowstorm.

And so we are huddled here.
It’s not the cold—it’s snow we fear:
Will we dig out our cars? Oh dear!
What to do?
We are through!
We’re effed!

Freezing wind, frigid air… We shiver
From just thinking of going outside.
We could drink to get warm, but the liver…
O, if only till spring we could hide!

Yet you produce both light and heat,
When you come in, the room is lit,
The blues are gone, and life is sweet.
We’re with friends!
Sadness ends!
Let’s drink!


2011

“Until Apollo summons the poet for a holy sacrifice...” A. Pushkin
“True talent must be hungry.” A proverb

There is a downside to happiness. It’s sad.
It’s like the opposite of “silver lining”.
I’m safe—whence foreboding, whence dread?
I should be singing hallelujah—whence this whining?

This poet’s soul must feel hunger, not grow fat.
Just like my body, it should go on a diet.
The era of prosperity has set,
Apollo’s call to duty has gone quiet.

When unrequited love was ripping up my heart,
When gross injustices were searing my soul—
I felt alive. When troubles do depart,
What do I strive for? I’ve achieved my goal!

If only once a year, please, please light up the fuse
Of inspiration, Nella, dear muse!


2013

As the advancing spring is making winter bristle,
Deflecting sun rays with its melting icy shield,
I know: it is time for me to wield
My pen once more, and write you an epistle.

How I wish I could myself deliver it
While standing in the midst of your adoring fans!
...We dream, we plan—but the almighty Chance
Still rules the world, and otherwise decreed.

We both survived a vicious hurricane,
When Fates attacked us—we dodged every blow.
Neither bacteria nor virus laid us low.
Sea didn’t claim your ship, nor sky—my plane.

I longed to bask on this momentous day

In the warm glow of your presence, o La Reine Soleil!...
But it was not to be. My plan was doomed to fail,
And cruel Fate forced me to stay away.

From my exile I send this humble gift:
A birthday wish to ever brighten days with laughter,
To be in perfect health today, tomorrow, thereafter,
To always joyful be, and never to be miffed.


2014

Frostbitten air makes it hard to breathe.
The land is desolate, devoid of color.
Long gone is every Christmas light and wreath.
There’s nothing left to hide the sickly pallor
Of withered earth, whose 50 shades of gray
Not even masochistic joy, but only pain convey.

The dead of winter is a dreaded time
If you love sun and yearn for birds’ sweet singing,
For all that you can see is snow, ice, and grime,
And you can feel your heart, your hopes sinking:
Believing that the spring will come is hard
When the world’s beauty is by winter marred...

And yet your laughter and your fiery red hair
Rekindle hope and dispel despair.


2015

O joyous, sweet, and balmy month—O June!
What bride, at least since Cro-Magnons migrated
from parching Africa, has ever not desired
to make her special day one of your days?
What student hasn’t counted the days
until you come to put an end to schooling?
What able-bodied man,—in regions far from tropics,—
has not all winter dreamed of your advent,
which makes hot girls (and some not so hot) let their skin
be kissed by sun and libidinous glances?
With you, o June, no other month compares.
You are the king of months, you’ve got it all!
So in your glory, be magnanimous, be gracious:
leave something for your cold and boring brother,
for January, month of sleet and ice and snow—
let Nella’s birthday still be celebrated
during the month which Nature foreordained!


2016

Confused? It’s in Russian!

О, если бы вы только знали,
Друзья моих давно не юных лет,
Когда вас поглащают дали—
Я так грущу, когда вас нет...

И голос мой грозит сорваться,
Наружу просится слеза,
Когда куда-то подеваться
Вас угораздило зазря.

И не могу найти я места
Себе, и одиноко мне.
Когда раздельно мы, не вместе,
То горло мыслит о ремне.

Но лишь я звонкий хохот Нели
Почую в грустной тишине,
Как соловья ночные трели,
Иль жаворонка в вышине,

Как только глаз моих коснётся
Виденье Нелиных волос,
Душа, проснувшись, встрепенётся,
И будет смех. Не будет слёз.


2017

The world’s becoming ever more divided,
as minds can no longer govern hearts,
as people grow dim and nearsighted
and march against their own rights.

Familial bonds and old friendships rupture,
emotions and vocal cords are strained,
and media is feeding, like a vulture,
on our fears, as they are unchained.

The vote’s in the past, yet we still frown
at our choice of candidates, of which
one was a potty mouthed no-filter clown
the other—a corrupt, deceitful bitch.

May your disdain for Hillary or Trump be hearty—
Tea partiers or Dems—we all belong at Nella’s party!


2020

In the year of COVID-19...

As I and many lesser poets have once written,
Our life’s precarious: we can be scratched and bitten,

We also tend to have some heavy objects fall on us,
And are in danger of being hit by truck or by a bus.

Life during pestilence is not a bed of roses,
We realize while covering our mouths and our noses.

And as we watch TV, we cannot help but wonder:
If we don’t keep six feet apart, will we wind up six under?

As our prospect of survival gradually dims,
We sadly ponder how mankind never learns from films

(We may’ve wept at “I am Legend”, laughed at “Zombieland”,
But never thought that such could be our own end),

And how neither Zika nor Ebola epidemic,
West Nile, or even SARS led to a national discussion or polemic.

We ask ourselves, why is Almighty treating us like bitches*?
Perhaps for eating cute, exotic, half-endangered creatures?

And speaking of our food—so far we have enough, but
Start thinking what we’ll use to wipe our butt,

Since finding (at a normal price) just simple toilet tissue
(And rubber gloves, and disinfectant wipes) has now become an issue.

The biggest problem, though, is, that, till the pandemic ends,
We cannot meet in person with our friends,

And, in the midst of global doom and gloom,
Have to rely on FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom.

So I would like to raise a virtual wine toast
To dear friends of mine I treasure most:

That we may all stay well and come to no harm,
Not kick the bucket, bite the dust, or buy the farm,

That the infection situation doesn’t worsen,
And that we can soon meet up and celebrate in person!


* A reference to “Pulp Fiction”