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from the February 2021 issue

About Time to Smile at Homeless People

Dinara Rasuleva questions received notions of home and national identity in this poem about her relationship to Russia.

Video: This video was created by the Russian-language, Berlin-based TV channel OstWest for a series called "Living Poets Society," which featured contemporary Russophone poets living in Germany. Used with permission from OstWest.


Words Without Borders · Dinara Rasuleva reads "Время улыбаться бомжам"("About time to smile at homeless people")

Listen to Dinara Rasuleva read "About Time to Smile at Homeless People" in the original Russian.

bike gears snatching a pant leg into their grip,
i don’t fall because i’m audacious like america,
because i’m as agile as youtube aerobics,
it’s just a shame about the pants, just a shame the pants ripped.

they offered me twice the work with no raise, and i took it
because i’m like russia—despairing, submissive,
because i’m as devil-may-care as great britain
and my tatar veins flow with suffering and pain,

every morning, i leak out and freeze, everything hurts,
even a miserable medieval serf would be shocked,
but i have to wake and walk and live life, ghostly as slovenia,
even food couldn’t ease this anemia.

yesterday, i went out to eat, and the people on the street asked me something inaudible,
i don’t smile at them because i’m rapacious like russia,
and you’d think after so long we’d all understand,
but i know some people who still love the motherland.

and i love her too, i had the volga there,
my cat’s scattered ashes, and they say there’s no better tvorog anywhere.
home is where the tvorog is, they say
but i don’t eat tvorog, so i’m down to stay away.


First published 2018 in Berlin.Berega. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2021 by Hilah Kohen.The original video was created in 2018 by the TV channel OstWest. All rights reserved.

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