Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chistie Prudi

It was gone, the Indian restaurant
Zhaltarang--with its stingy service,
cheap, peppered chapati and muddy coffee.
In its place--a members-only edifice,
a place for the elite to spy on swans.

I turned away from the water,
wilted onto a park bench,
a woolen skirt pooling round my legs;
stared at Griboyedov's bronze back,

The shadows lengthened
along the boulevard.
My feet found their way to Telegrafny,
through the vestibule of Menshikov tower,
in time for Vigil at St. Gabriel's.

Merging with a cloud of incense,
I bought a beeswax taper
from a grumpy babushka,
and cradled it in a sweaty palm,
mouthing, "Gospodi, pomilui."

I pretended to watch the lost doves
fluttering in the cupola;
a sideways glance
assured me of his presence.

Make way for those behind you,
I told myself, sliding forward
till the edge of a shadow
cast by a broad-brimmed hat--
dangling on a string--
barely brushed my hand.

And then I sang again, "pomilui,"
wanting, and yet not wanting
him to turn and notice me.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Berezovy Sok (Березовый Сок)

A body is an eye in the dark. Its outermost skin conveys the impression of shape in the shadows. A hallowed silence gathers. The calmness of quietude places in her mind a bouquet of white carnations sniffed in passing at the grocery store: seemingly common, yet sweeter in scent than the reddest of the cellophane-wrapped roses--displayed all wrong, in even dozens, as if for a funeral--

Curiously, liltingly, as if a peony, a blossoming beneath her sternum. Sensation unfolds into an invisible hand slipping up surreptitiously to caress her hair. A garland of carnations descends upon her shoulders. Or perhaps it is a pair of arms.

Inside indigo umbrellas, questions circle.

"Have I gone mad, or are my senses rising, is the first sap of Spring streaming through my fingers? Could it be the sky wants to woo me as its wife? Or is this suitor nearer to my own mind?"

She does not expect any answer, having failed nearly all possible tests:

In her time, she has spilled more seeds than she could sort; caught only a glimpse of a gilded fleece-- grasped a corner of it, before it was torn away--lost even the remnant of the glittering fiber stuffed into a pocket--and, though she is, herself, a vase filled near to the brim by the dark river between the worlds--beauty and its variegated elixirs are a dialect in the distance. Yet there is this: she has striven, endeavored, contended: endured.

A glimpse of a silhouette, of a movement between the trees. The kindness of bark curls into a tight embrace of limbs and trunk. A fever of branches emerges from her ears, and spreads across the pillow. Leaflings tangle in her hair.

Could it be that her own spirit, after wandering for so many years, has returned to her at last?

"I love you," she whispers into the throbbing velvet dark.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

-- Marina Tsvetaeva (Kaminsky, Valentine)

...I seem to overhear
two friends, two voices, talking in their turn,

--O look!--that fresh dark elderberry branch
is like a letter from Marina in the mail.

--Anna Akhmatova
November 1961

(from Poems of Akhmatova, tr. Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward)


from Poems for Akhmatova

I won't fall  behind you. I'm the guard.
You--the prisoner. Our fate is the same.
And here in the same open emptiness
they command us the same--Go away.

So--I lean against nothing.
I see it.
Let me go, my prisoner,
to walk over towards that pine tree.

June, 1916

You can't buy me. That is the whole point. To buy is to  buy oneself off. You can't buy yourself off from me. You can buy me only with  the whole sky in yourself. The whole sky in which, perhaps, there is no place for me.


--Marina Tsvetaeva

My difficulty (in writing poems--and perhaps other people's difficulty in understanding them) is in the impossibility of my goal, for example, to use  words to express a moan: nnh, nnh, nnh. To express a sound using words, using meanings. So that the only thing left in the ears woudl be nnh, nnhm, nnh.

--an excerpt from Tsvetaeva's final notebooks

(From: Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva

A Reading by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine)

Alla Pugacheva sings the lyrics of a Marina Tsvetaeva poem, in a video dedicated to her memory.

When I heard Ilya Kaminsky had been involved in a translation of some of Marina Tsvetaeva's poems, I had to glimpse this for I bought a copy.

Monday, March 24, 2014

White acacias, clusters of fragrance--

A romance performed by Yana Gray.

That which is new to us is might be the lyrics to an old song, long-forgotten, or the inexplicable reappearance of time to translate....enjoy.

the song of a shell sapphire melting inside jade a color unnamed Ofra Haza's version of this song defies categoriz...

popular on this site