Today's poem is by Clemens Starck

Studying Russian on Company Time

Act like you're reading the sports page.
Pretend your textbook's a sandwich, and start eating it.
When the foreman asks what you're doing, ask him
if he knows where Olga and Ivan are.
Enunciate carefully: Olga
and Ivan are not in the library, Olga and Ivan
were not in the library,
Olga and Ivan
will not be in the library.

Now it is time for the Great Terror.
Take Tukhachevsky ...
Take him and execute him.
Let the German tanks encircle Stalingrad. This
is an example of the perfective aspect
of the Russian verb.

When Vladimir Ilyich stepped off the train
at the Finland Station
a band struck up! Thousands cheered! Red and gold
flapped in the wind! It was a scene
out of a dream
dreamt by the Petersburg
League for the Liberation of the Working Class.

Seventy-five years!
Week follows week, day after day:
ponedél'nik, ftórnik, sredá, chetvérg...These are words
that bounce off the teeth. Remember,
the genitive singular of feminine nouns
is often the same
as the nominative plural.
Don't ask stupid questions.
Throw a quick glance over one shoulder, throw salt
over the other. Soon
you shall speak perfect Russian—
so flawlessly,
so fluently,
not even your comrades
will understand.

                                                7 November 1992

Copyright © 2018 Clemens Starck All rights reserved
from Studying Russian on Company Time
Silverfish Review Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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