Saturday, October 24, 2015


To the day belongs work and all of its clattering company of earthly cares.

The night is a sanctuary for starlight, moon-glow, and for dreams of flight.

Sing, Alkonost, and forget your sorrow, Sirin! Do you not know that Finist, Yasny Sokol, our Bright Falcon, is here?

Alkonost and Sirin (Anastasia Grigorieva)

On our pillows, we close our eyes, we each cling to a single feather. Only when we join together in the dreamworld, do we find our wings.

Falcon (Ivan Bilibin)

Hardly realizing it, we are aloft. We fly past mountains and woodlands, past the River of Tears and the Well of Forgetfulness.

Along the way, we meet Blessed Seraphim, who is conversing with a grand old bear. He waves us on, saying, "My joys, go on! I myself collected the feathers of the bright ones in my time! Our Lady gave me the first one as a gift when I was yet a boy."

When we have flown straight into the heart of the matter, we arrive at a place in the sky where geometry is born of light.

Just as soon as a word is spoken in this place, a shape appears. 

And each of the word-forms is so glad of the chance to be brought into being-- it spins, it dances in an endless ecstasy.

Raisa's Dream (Kandinsky)

Shawm (Kandinsky)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

in my Moscow

The walls of my Kremlin are not tall. Often, I even forget to latch the gate. 

In the evenings, I step out onto the road and make my way up the hill until an entire circle of mountains is visible, behind my back and before me, beyond a slivery slash of sea. 

The sunset is a fire that licks at the jagged lines of the hills, and burns into broad stripes of pastel from orange to light blue into indigo, until the first stars of evening begin to flicker and pulsate. 

When I stand just so on the crest of the hill, behind a great birch tree with a lamp hanging on it, the city is laid out before me, rows of glowing jewels more precious than all the treasure in the entire Almazny Fond. 

And when I turn to the moon--her silver swordlike rays pass through me till I am transfixed, speechless. I forget where and when I am standing. The lacquer box of memory opens, and the ruby stars of the Vodovzodnaya and Borovitsakaya towers appear through the fog of nostalgia. Yes, I am a bit of an odd bird.

Marina Tsvetaeva wrote these lines to Alexander Blok in 1916 - just a few years before he passed away (1921):

In my Moscow - cupolas gleam!
In my Moscow - bells ring!
And there in rows stand the graves -
Tsaritsas sleep in them, and tsars.

What you don't know, is in the Kremlin at dawn
Breathing is easier, than on the entire earth!
And you don't know, that in the Kremlin at dawn
I pray to you - until dusk.

At the same time you walk along your Neva
I am walking along Moskva-Reka;
I stand with my head bowed,
and the lamp-posts blur together.

With my whole insomnia I love you,
With my whole insomnia I listen for you,
At about the time as all around the Kremlin
The bell-ringers are awakening.

But my river -  yes, with your river
And my hand - yes, with your hand
Will not be joined, my joy, until
The dusk catches up to the dawn.*

May 7, 1916

*There is some difficulty in translating this, because the same word can be used for dusk or dawn.

I searched around online, and found that A.S. Kline made an attempt at a poetic translation of this pom. I include this link, because I don't consider mine to be entirely adequate.

У меня в Москве — купола горят!
У меня в Москве — колокола звонят!
И гробницы в ряд у меня стоят, —
В них царицы спят, и цари.

И не знаешь ты, что зарей в Кремле
Легче дышится — чем на всей земле!
И не знаешь ты, что зарей в Кремле
Я молюсь тебе — до зари.

И проходишь ты над своей Невой
О ту пору, как над рекой-Москвой
Я стою с опущенной головой,
И слипаются фонари.

Всей бессонницей я тебя люблю,
Всей бессонницей я тебе внемлю —
О ту пору, как по всему Кремлю
Просыпаются звонари.

Но моя река — да с твоей рекой,
Но моя рука — да с твоей рукой
Не сойдутся. Радость моя, доколь
Не догонит заря — зари.

7 мая 1916

Irina Bragina composed an enchanting sung version of this poem - which may help to convey some of the zaum - the essential sound - of it to a lover of poetry.



I curled myself up into a ball at the feet of the veiled one.

In the palm of my hand, I held a question.

The silence gathered itself to answer, and then burst into a dark momentum:

a sphere, spinning unseen and yet sensed viscerally, a condensed immensity, a spring-loaded spiral, which cascaded into a flash of fractal rainbows, visible to an inner black-light, and then evaporated from the field of my perception.

Thus leading to the birth of more questions.

(for erin) when i ask, where have the redpolls gone, and why the silence at my seed station your eyes, unbidden twin candles startle ...

popular on this site