Afternoons on Old Arbat Street,
Pushkin's ghost emerges from his monument.
Wondering where his wife has flown to,
He lingers near the artists and buskers.
A new attraction, a pantomime--
has caught his eye: a mute woman's
hands describing the boundaries
of an invisible cage; it moves him strangely.
At the end of her performance,
She is led away by Faustus,
Tugging at a silken rope
Threaded like a noose around her neck.
Mephistopheles follows behind.
He offers her a scented chocolate.
Ravenous, she accepts: as soon as
it melts on her tongue, she swoons.
Mephistopheles takes a knife,
slices her hands and feet, and
into each wound he chants,
You are mine, you are mine!
Faustus, striding forward, face fixed
In a grimace, drags her onward,
Oblivious to the blood
Dripping onto the cobblestones.
Drawn by the smell of fear,
Imps appear on the scene,
Attaching themselves like leeches
to the fallen woman, taunting her.
An artist, secret angel, rises from his easel
in protest. The outlines of the woman become
Translucent; she divides into many selves,
Each one with its attendant imp.
Certain of the woman's selves begin
to torment the others; a conflict ensues.
Harsh voices issue from her mouths,
alternating with cries for mercy! mercy!
The noisy cavalcade processes around
the corner and into an alley-way;
A few fascinated pedestrians
Drop coins into Faustus' hand.
Lukomorye! I must record this!
Exclaims Pushkin, digging into
His pockets for a pencil, but
there finds only a dueling pistol.
A dreamless sleep falls from the shimmering leaves. --Sappho fragment, tr. Andrew Bellon I changed, thickened, ...
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