Poems and Songs of Vladimir Vysotsky. The Heavenly Airfield.

I measured in a count-down manner...Adapted from George Tokarev’s translation by Akbar Muhammad.

To Yury Gagarin.

I measured in a count-down manner
My life that day — as no one did before!
My skin with sweat first fired, like a cannon,
And smoke came from every single pore.

I got cold feet — I clearly remember,
I felt myself a frightened, silent stooge.
Was it again a lifeless pressure chamber?
Was it again a spinning centrifuge?

I gained more weight as if becoming fatter,
I made no sound like a speechless one,
Next day the papers out of this matter
Will fan “big deal” for centuries to come.

My memory blew up just like a burster —
The images I saw were sharp and true.
Here’s my back-up. He could become the first one,
But he became the first one number two.

For scoops and headlines he’s a small potato —
A hero must always be alone!
We came together to the elevator,
But then I went upstairs on my own.

And next I saw the man, so strictly covered,
He was top-secret, few could see his face.
He had discovered all to be discovered
And drew the orbit through the freezing space.

As if emerging from the troubled waters,
Appeared faces of my friends and wife.
Tomorrow they’ll talk to the reporters
About their parts in my heroic life!

All those men of whom I was aware
Of this great fuss will start collecting tolls.
My childhood which was hungry, dull and bare
Will be dressed up and written down on scrolls.

And then I heard a word. This word was “Go!”
It sounded that minute like a wail...
I heard the nozzles menacingly blow,
Expectorating burning spit away.

I couldn’t breathe — or, maybe, didn’t dare!
A hurricane of feelings stormed my soul.
The planet seized the rocket in despair
And held it tight and didn’t let it go.

The planet drew us back — me and the rocket,
The pull was awful — one may simply die!
Each eye of mine sprang out of its socket —
Each eye could now look the other eye!

Cries gagged my mouth. Sufferings were cruel.
The spaceship turned into a burning cage...
Then down went, disposed of its fuel,
The first, the most powerful stage.

Below me shrill sirens (maybe angels?)
Began to sing. Was it a praise? A curse?
But now roared, like mad, my mighty engines
And snatched me then from the embracing Earth.

The world sat back — it got some relaxation,
And spring resumed its advent, wide and fast.
My eyes returned to their normal station,
The pain was gone and silence came at last!

Board sensors marked my pulse as calm and even,
The flight continued as a steady sweep.
I flew straight into midnight, skipping evening,
And ground controls ordered me to sleep.

Then for some time they heard from me no sound,
They felt uneasy — kind of I was dead.
But radio broke silence all around:
“The first man in the history...” it said.

I took my helmet off to ease the tightness,
And said that I had now a nice day.
I suddenly was caught by some sweet lightness,
Which made me dizzy in a certain way.

Some wire noosed my neck right when I spoke,
My lungs against the ribs insanely struck.
Just for a second with my heart I choked —
Inside the throat it suddenly got stuck.

But I informed all those who were waiting,
Who gathered in the underground hall,
About my condition: “I’m weightless,
It’s funny, it’s impossible to fall!” —

And didn’t know, flying like a comet,
Enjoying weightlessness and relishing the day,
That weightlessness calls forth the bloody vomit
And washing the bone calcium away...


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