In Our Stairwell
In the evenings,
a bunch of youths
dwelt in our stairwell.
They drank vodka,
pissed up the wall
and jeered humankind.
Every morning, as I went to work,
there was an empty bottle
on a landing,
and it smelt of urine.

Once I said to the youngsters,
"You may drink vodka if you wish,
but it would be better if you
refrained from urinating here,
it's not a nice thing to do.
As for humankind,
we should not laugh at it
but mourn it."

Since that day
the youths in our stairwell
drink vodka,
lament bitterly over humankind
and exhaust themselves
abstaining from urination.
They would rather die than take a piss.

- - - Gennady Alexeyev
Translation ©1987 Anatoly Kudryavitsky
From A Night in the Nabokov Hotel
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