Boris Slutsky
There were many old women and only a few old men...

There were many old women and only a few old men...
Perhaps it was life, just life, or perhaps something else again
But it bent the old women, and the old men it broke:
Some died of heart-attacks, others of strokes.
The old women went through their closets and chests,
And laid out their spouses decked in their Sunday best.
The coffins they bought were of oak, and rather expensive,
The hands of the dead looked uncannily massive...
In time, whole housefuls of flats filled slowly with shadows:
Whole block fuls appeared, whole streetfuls of widows,
Who were fearful of thieves and also of burglars,
Passed yellowish beads between yellowing fingers,
And chatted of death as of a neighbour, or friend
With whom they took tea, and on whom they had learnt to depend
A neighbour or friend as gaunt as poor Anna Petrovna
Of long-faced and sad-eyed as Maria Andrevna.
They rose with the dawn, like sailors at sea,
And for hours on end, being hopelessly free,
Sat in baggy old smocks and shapeless old dresses
Listlessly combing their sparse, thinning tresses.
To bed they went early, like army recruits,
But sleep would not come, and they lay there, mute,
In their dusty and darkish chambers.
And thought about things that were good to remember.
Their lives rose before them, the toll of love and of duty,
Their long lives of toil, and brief moments of beauty...
The night tram clanged by,
In the sky
The night stars erupted...
Insomnia's vigil
Was uninterrupted.

Translated by Irina Zheleznova

Борис Слуцкий
Старухи без стариков

Вл. Сякину

Старух было много, стариков было мало:
то, что гнуло старух, стариков ломало.
Старики умирали, хватаясь за сердце,
а старухи, рванув гардеробные дверцы,
доставали костюм выходной, суконный,
покупали гроб дорогой, дубовый
и глядели в последний, как лежит законный,
прижимая лацкан рукой пудовой.
Постепенно образовались квартиры,
а потом из них слепились кварталы,
где одни старухи молитвы твердили,
боялись воров, о смерти болтали.
Они болтали о смерти, словно
она с ними чай пила ежедневно,
такая же тощая, как Анна Петровна,
такая же грустная, как Марья Андревна.
Вставали рано, словно матросы,
и долго, темные, словно индусы,
чесали гребнем редкие косы,
катали в пальцах старые бусы.
Ложились рано, словно солдаты,
а спать не спали долго-долго,
катая в мыслях какие-то даты,
какие-то вехи любви и долга.
И вся их длинная,
вся горевая,
вся их радостная,
вся трудовая —
вставала в звонах ночного трамвая,
на миг
          бессонницы не прерывая.

Перевод стихотворения Бориса Слуцкого «Старухи без стариков» на английский.