Clouds by Alexander Galich

Clouds tells the story of a man who has been freed from the labor camps. He can not escape the life he lived there, for his memories always take him back, like clouds always float from one place to another.


The clouds float by, the clouds,
Without hurrying, like in a film.
I'm eating chicken tabaka,
And I've sunk a load of cognac.

The clouds float off to Abakan [a Gulag area].
Unhurried they float.
They're warm, I bet, those clouds,
But I've been frozen through forever!

Like a horseshoe I froze into the sleigh tracks,
Into the ice I was chipping with my pick!
After all, not for nothing
I blew away 20 years in those camps.

I still have that snow crust before my eyes!
I still have the din of frisking in my ears!
Hey, bring me a pineapple
And another 200 g. of cognac!

The clouds float by, the clouds,
Floating to Kolyma [a work camp] that dear old place,
And they don't need a lawyer,
An amnesty's neither here nor there.

Me too, I live a first-rate life!
Twenty years I swapped for one day!
And I sit in this bar like a lord,
I've even got some teeth left!

The clouds float off to the east,
They've no pension, no worries.
Me, on the fourth, I get a money order,
And another on the 23rd.

And on those days, just like me.
Half the country sits in the bars!
And in our memory off to those places
Float the clouds, the clouds.

Translation taken from Smith, Gerald Stanton. (1984). Songs to Seven Strings: Russian Guitar Poetry and Soviet Mass Song. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 195-196.

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