To Mikhail Shemyakin

Like a razor, the daybreak slashed over the eyes,
>From the rot of the river took off dragonflies,
Then the gun shutters opened, as if by a spell,
And the gunners appeared, as sure as hell,
And the merriment started - full-swing, at full pelt!

You lay down on your bellies and covered your fangs,
Even those who would dive under round-up flags,
Who would sense every pitfall when life was at stake,
Those whom even a bullet could not overtake -
Also lay, bathed in sweat, and would weaken and shake.

Life is rarely known to smile on my kin,
But we love it - to no avail!
Now, death has a broad and beautiful grin,
And its teeth are all sturdy and hale!

Let us smile the grin of a wolf at the foe,
Dogs are yet to be shown who is stronger!
But - inscribed as a scarlet tattoo on the snow
Is your mark: we are wolves no longer!

So we crawled - tails doggishly tucked, minds dazed,
Tattered muzzles in wonder to heaven upraised:
Whether God's retribution was spilling on us,
Or the end of the world came, or we had gone nuts -
But the steel dragonflies were scorching our guts!

We got soaked in blood in the rainstorm of lead.
There was no escape, and we no longer fled.
Snow would melt underneath us, like under the sun...
Man, not God up above, thought of slaughter as fun:
Fly - and perish in flight, flee - and die on the run!

Raging crowd of dogs, don't you mess with my pack -
If the scuffle is equal - we'll beat you!
Life is good to us wolves, and we treasure it back,
You are dogs - death will properly treat you!

Let us smile the grin of a wolf at the foe,
Cutting short any rumours that wrong us.
But - inscribed as a scarlet tattoo on the snow
Is the mark: we are wolves no longer!

To the woods - I may rescue a few of you still.
To the woods! When you run, you are harder to kill!
Save the cubs! I am thrashing around, easy prey
For the gunners, half-drunk, who are eager to slay,
As I call to the souls of wolves gone astray!..

The survivors are over the creek, lying low.
There is naught I can do, being weak and alone!
I am losing my sight, and my nose is no good...
Wolves, where are you who used to inhabit the woods?
Yellow-eyed kith and kin, just where are you, my wolves?!

...I live on, but around me I see every day
Beasts to whom a wolf's cry is unknown.
These are dogs - distant cousins and earlier prey,
Once chased down by some of our own.

I am smiling the grin of a wolf at my foe:
Rotten splinters of teeth that are long gone.
And, inscribed as a scarlet tattoo on the snow,
Fades the mark: we are wolves no longer!

1978