Marko Cheremshyna, The Village Is Trembling

Over the third mountain yonder, the sky’s a-yawnin’.

The glow wouldn’t let the sky sleep last night, searing the sky’s sides, mantling the sky’s face. The glow rested against the mountains, and unfastened its crimson-red girdle, and unclasped its necklace to line the air above the village with blood-red crosses, and unbraided its flaxen hair to let it flow on pearly clouds, and reached out to the sky, its fingers the teeth of a comb.

The glow’s soft feet went where the granaries were, where the homesteads were, and the sheaves of hay, and the wares in chests.

The glow’s way was strewn with the smoke, burnt with the blaze, marked with the bullets.

Where hands once worked, there it hails with shells. Where the homestead was, there the ground’s cracked open.

Let the village see, let it know.

Over the third mountain yonder, the sky’s a-groaning. The earth is holding the sky’s thunders now, firing bullets into the sky’s ribs.

Time and again.

The mountains are split. They are wrecking each other with thunder, smashing their flinty heads together, splintering the forests, filling the valleys with men.

Lo, now they wail, and the skies are shaking, and the rock is breaking.

They who live, let them die.

It ain’t no tempest that never ripped out no tree, ain’t no mowing that never chipped no scythe, ain’t no fight that never broke no soul; this here battle, it’s raging across the mountains, this massacre, it’s muddling the dales with blood, this clash, it’s dumping people into piles in one fell swoop.

And it ain’t no shell that never pitted no village, mixin’ it with clay.

By the third mountain yonder, an alder’s a-rottin’.

The alder is turning its back on the sun, away from the village.

See, the sun will notice how the alder’s swaying the dead, feeding the pitch-black birds.

See, the village will weep now that the alder’s grown into a gallows crowned with branching heads.

See, that there alder tainted the forest, and death has plaited its twigs over the side of the road.

And the sturdier branches, they bear the bodies, and those bodies have broken necks and smothered souls.

Let the village see, let it know.

Talk has spread from the third mountain yonder, calling for people to leave the village, to escape the coming fire. This village is the enemy’s target, and so will the army push them here, so it will greet them with shells. But mind you, boy, there’s a feast for the soldiers. And you, boy, you get out, don’t get in the way, you go an’ save your life, cause you’re gonna need it. Grab you what you can, an’ don’t you tarry, don’t stay still, don’t wait for death.

And should them houses hold, that’ll show their masters’ skill and the village’s strength.

Though them shacks will probably fall to the bullet, they will probably crumble to dust.

There ain’t no corner an ox could rub against, let alone a shell.

Hey, good people, you keep your eyes peeled, don’t you look at them joists, don’t you linger around your homes.

It’s as if the earth under the village is quaking, shaking off its people. From every house, they are fleeing, taking their wares with them. But the cattle come first. They round the herd up on the road for the boys to drive it farther. After the cattle come the carts with old women and the carts with old men. Too weak to walk, they need to be carried. With the old men come the cripples of the village. Then come the old men in one-horse carriages. And in a cart with the young ones is an auntie caring for them so they don’t cry. And then comes whoever and whatever has the strength, moving everyone’s chattels on burlap rugs and wool carpets. Then come the bearers with the church’s belongings. And then the dogs, barking, not letting the village go.

So the village reached the furthest mountain, and withered like the moss-covered roots that the wind ripped out of the ground and hurled onto the rock, to soak and dry and soak again.

A flock of crows cawed above the village, looking inside the caves where the people had hidden their possessions from the enemy, as if reaching for the wares with their black claws, as if rejoicing at the find.

And when the mountain saw the whole village on its shoulders, then it trembled, and yellow leaves fell from the trees.

So it put the old villagers onto the grass, and let the children drink the milk, and kissed the cattle on the mouth.

And it told the woods to rustle quietly, to keep the rest of the worries away from the village, to dote on them, to soothe their pain.

See, the village fell out, like an old door from a tired frame, away from its doorstep.

The moon’s seen it and fled in fear, naked, down the high mountain paths. It points its pale finger at the empty village, showing it to the furthest mountain. And the village is freezing.

Then, the herd glanced at the sheds below and let out a sorrowful bellow. And the village is paling and trembling…


Translated by Yelyzaveta Bolotova from: Marko Cheremshyna, ‘Село потерпає (The village is trembling)’, Літературно-науковий вісник (Literary and Scientific Courier), vol. 76 (Lviv, 1922), book 2, pp.  98–100.


The UIL Literary Translation workshop was funded by the Embassy of Ukraine to the United Kingdom and coordinated by UIL Kultura Fellow Maryna Dubyna.

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