Thursday, March 19, 2015

I drove my daughter to school today, and then turned toward home. The sun was just coming up over the mountains, surrounded by clouds. Oh my Light, a sign of my Beloved appearing!

I wish I could have captured with a camera, the cloud of glory rising, how I spied it again, gleaming between the splitting branches of a birch tree. It was the sun, and it was more than the sun.

And yet this was a sight which could not be caught by any gaze except that of the heart, a flower pressed between the pages of an eternal book, waiting eagerly for such a ray of morning. "White Aster! I am here!"

How long we have kept our secrets--and how much longer we shall keep them, only the sunset can guess.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Liberté (Paul Éluard)

On my school notebooks
On my desk and on the trees
On the sands of snow
I write your name

On the pages I have read
On all the white pages
Stone, blood, paper or ash
I write your name

On the images of gold
On the weapons of the warriors
On the crown of the king
I write your name

On the jungle and the desert
On the nest and on the brier
On the echo of my childhood
I write your name

On all my scarves of blue
On the moist sunlit swamps
On the living lake of moonlight
I write your name

On the fields, on the horizon
On the birds’ wings
And on the mill of shadows
I write your name

On each whiff of daybreak
On the sea, on the boats
On the demented mountaintop
I write your name

On the froth of the cloud
On the sweat of the storm
On the dense rain and the flat
I write your name

On the flickering figures
On the bells of colors
On the natural truth
I write your name

On the high paths
On the deployed routes
On the crowd-thronged square
I write your name

On the lamp which is lit
On the lamp which isn’t
On my reunited thoughts
I write your name

On a fruit cut in two
Of my mirror and my chamber
On my bed, an empty shell
I write your name

On my dog, greathearted and greedy
On his pricked-up ears
On his blundering paws
I write your name

On the latch of my door
On those familiar objects
On the torrents of a good fire
I write your name

On the harmony of the flesh
On the faces of my friends
On each outstretched hand
I write your name

On the window of surprises
On a pair of expectant lips
In a state far deeper than silence
I write your name

On my crumbled hiding-places
On my sunken lighthouses
On my walls and my ennui
I write your name

On abstraction without desire
On naked solitude
On the marches of death
I write your name

And for the want of a word
I renew my life
For I was born to know you
To name you


--Paul Éluard

(from the French, translator unknown)

Cave of the Hands, Argentina

The anchor of a constellation
listens for the salt of pure sound.
The feather of Ma'at on the wind,
the sign of Miriam on her palms

reminds a mountain of silence
how music was an entire ocean
she conjured with her sistrum
he swore he'd never forget--

a stranger's eyes scorching
a brittle rose in midwinter
under a ceiling of lapis sky
the antidote meets its poison.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Amethysts - Innokenty Annensky

Every once in a while it occurs to me that there need to be more translations of Annensky poems available online. Innokenty Annensky was a prominent Symbolist who had a great deal of influence on Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, and Mandelstam. I've tinkered here with a translation I found by Evgeny Bonver (but couldn't understand, so I found the original and re-translated it), and hopefully clarified the poem a bit.


My eyes forgot the blue of heaven.
Gold, to them, is not the sun's dust,
But I live and dream in one plane alone,
Between the facets of the amethyst.

For there, drunker than young spring
And more troubling than an idea,
These violet fires are forced to gleam,
their colors cooling, blending here.      

To the heart, where were only pain and shame,
No dream is more tender and deceiving:
Than to be a crystal near a candle's flame,                
To be as violet frost glimmering.

--Innokenty Annensky

Глаза забыли синеву,

Им солнца пыль не золотиста,
Но весь одним я сном живу,
Что между граней аметиста.

Затем, что там пьяней весны
И беспокойней, чем идея,
Огни лиловые должны
Переливаться, холодея.

И сердцу, где лишь стыд да страх,
Нет грезы ласково-обманней,
Чем стать кристаллом при свечах
В лиловом холоде мерцаний.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Fly Away on the Wings of the Wind - Borodin/Rigina Valieva

Fly away on the wings of the wind,
you, our native song, to your place of birth;
to where we sang you freely,
where we had such liberty with you.
There, beneath the heated sky
the air is filled with bliss,
there, near the murmur of the sea
mountains doze among the clouds.
There, the sun shines so brightly,
pouring light onto the mountains;
in the valleys, lush roses bloom,
and nightingales croon in green forests.
There, song, you will taste freedom...
go and fly away, to that place.

Улетай на крыльях ветра
ты в край родной, родная песня наша,
туда, где мы тебя свободно пели,
где было так привольно нам с тобою.
Там, под знойным небом
негой воздух полон,
там под говор моря дремлют горы в облаках.
Там так ярко солнце светит,
Родные горы светом заливая,
В долинах пышно розы расцветают,
И соловьи поют в лесах зелёных;
И сладкий виноград растёт.
Там тебе привольней, песня…
Ты туда и улетай!

Friday, January 23, 2015


I found this poem by chance yesterday; it was posted on a wall in a middle school:*


by Valerie Worth

While we know they are enormous suns,
Gold lashing fire oceans, seas of heavy silverflame,
They look as though they could be
Swept down and heaped, cold crystal
Sparks, in one cupped palm.

*After further research, I have discovered that the poem was not written by one of the schoolchildren, but I still liked it, and I appreciated the fact that it was enjoyed by the students.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

dream-elixir, song of stone

Would you find an end to your wanderings, weary traveler?

Follow with your gaze the arcing flutter of the wings of a white crane until you climb the slate steps to a clearing on the slope of the mountain. 

There you find a most unusual sight: rooted firmly in the gray rock, a translucent crystal tree, which stretches its limbs to the sky, where the crane settles into her nest. A tree as smooth and glittering as a cacophony of bright gems, as perfectly whole as a grail of glass. As radiant as ice.

A warm wind moves through the crystal leaves, and they shimmer while they chime, for within the tree a living flame glows, undulating in waves of rose-red and gold.

At the touch of your hand, the pellucid stone trunk of the tree parts in two and you find yourself sheltered in the center of its crystalline heart-wood.

Within, the tree appears much larger than without. You look up and see that the refulgent walls of your shelter are carved with row upon row of curious runes. The outline of a dragon is etched into the crystal walls near the disappearing door.

Nearly invisible phosphorescent blue-green shapes coax you further within, to lie upon an impossibly soft cloud-bed, where they minister to your sore feet and aching limbs. 

You hear the faint chatter of a stream trickling in the distance. Further in, you glimpse a grassy knoll, where the figure of a forest nymph twirls momentarily, then disappears. Somewhere, someone is singing....

You close your eyes, and the curtain lifts on an indigo sky; a brilliant star gleams in its center.

While you sink into dream after dream, your pain subsides bit by bit, until it is as if the flame in the center of the tree has replaced all other sensations in your body, infusing it with its gentle and tender glow.

So this is peace at last, you murmur.

A reassuring flicker answers.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A westerly wind was whistling in the birch leaves, tugging at them playfully, dancing with them, spinning them round and round until they settled, one by one, onto the path. A lone pedestrian crunched along the walkway, watching the way the leaves clung to his worn loafers. He shifted the large satchel, which hung over his shoulder, to the other side, and took the weight off his right leg for a moment. The light of the sunset seemed to meander lazily towards him, filtered as it was through swaying branches.

The man shouldered the bag once more, and strode through an archway. The sign over it read: Izmailovsky Park. The metro station nearby buzzed with the activity of commuters and hawkers, who were packing up their wares for the evening. Barely glancing at them, he walked up the street, limping slightly, and then stopped at the entrance of an apartment building. He went down the cement stairs towards the basement, and inserted a key into a door.

He hung a large, broad-brimmed hat on a hook, and the hallway light then illumined the face of a man with rounded features, a nose which must have been broken in at least one fight, and gentle, gray eyes. He rubbed the back of his neck, and headed for the kitchen, where he filled a kettle and put it on the stove.

The kitchen was unusual for a Moscow apartment, in that it was not separated by a wall from the other rooms, but opened out into a sitting room. On the white plaster behind the kitchen counters, he had painted a series of dark-red rectangles, in a formation that approximated a brick wall. This introduced a note of color into an otherwise drab room.

He peeled wax from the rind of a cheese, set it on a board, and cut a few slices. Then he fetched the bread, and some carrot salad, which was left over from his supper the night before. The kettle sang, and he poured its contents into a small pot, already warm on the stove, straight onto the fragrant ceylon leaves.

He ate slowly, and then reached for a jar of apricot marmelade. The apricots appeared as orange spheres suspended in amber gel. He held the jar between his eyes and the kitchen lamp, musing at the sight, then he opened it and spooned one perfect apricot into a dish. With a silver spoon, he lifted it to his mouth and tasted its flesh. In the center of each apricot, he had placed, instead of the pit, a perfect walnut half, the nutty flavor of which complemented the sweet syrup. He took a sip of tea, and sighed in approval of his own craftsmanship.

The sitting room contained a large, re-upholstered antique couch, which nineteenth century artisans had constructed to approximate a lounge that might have served the ancient Romans. He lay back on the couch, and picked up a book, opening it to a story by Nikolai Leskov, The Alexandrite.

"Look, here it is, the prophetic Russian stone. O crafty Siberian. It was always green as hope and only toward evening was it suffused with blood..."

He read until the book closed itself onto the folded hands on his breast, and then he slept. The window rattled in its casement, as it began to be bombarded by an Autumn rainstorm. Rows of droplets trickled down the glass; water, with its patience and wisdom, flows until it can no more, and is gathered back up to the heavens.


Mariinsky Theater performs The Nutcracker

In this forest fantasia
Pyotr Ilych is the mage.
He conjures the dancers
who file onto the page.

Herr Drosselmeier floats
beside the angel of no time,
and no words are allowed
within this temple of sound.

Maestra Luna raises her baton
in a little match-girl's heart;
at last, when the curtain rises,
a poem, as ballet, writes itself.