In heels and pilfered silks,

In the basement kitchens,

Stirring pots and cooking meals,

Stand the most vile creatures.


And there creatures paint their lips

Over cow’s tongue gathered,

As, abundantly, the milk

Fills their breasts, unwithered.


Five serves them, at their beckon,

Working like a mutt

In their stoves, flames licking

The pots they hide from us.


The buckwheat’s frightening smell

Is torture at their door.

We curse our fate, ourselves,

And curse God all the more.


Our great desire is to vend

The clothes right off our backs,

We watch them from behind,

Anticipating scraps.


June 24-26, 1942. 73 Nikolaevskaya [Street].


Translated by Charles Swank and Matvei Yankelevich. © and courtesy of Ugly Duckling Presse, 2016.