Jun 122017
 

Something miraculous burns in music;
as you watch, its edges crystallize.
Only music speaks to me
when others turn away their eyes.

When fearful friends abandoned me
music stayed, even at my grave,
and sang like earth’s first shower of rain
or flowers suddenly everywhere alive.

 

The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems

(New York Review Books Classics)

Translated by Paul Schmidt.

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Jun 072017
 

First, plain speech in the mother tongue.
Hearing it you should be able to see,
As if in a flash of summer lightning,
Apple trees, a river, the bend of a road.

And it should contain more than images.
Singsong lured it into being,
Melody, a daydream. Defenseless,
It was bypassed by the dry, sharp world.

You often ask yourself why you feel shame
Whenever you look through a book of poems.
As if the author, for reasons unclear to you,
Addressed the worst side of your nature,
Pushing thought aside, cheating thought.

Poetry, seasoned with satire, clowning,
Jokes, still knows how to please.
Then its excellence is much admired.
But serious combat, where life is at stake,
Is fought in prose. It was not always so.

And our regret has remained unconfessed.
Novels and essays serve but will not last.
One clear stanza can take more weight
Than a whole wagon of elaborate prose.

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May 312017
 

All I want to do is
escape the madness here.
To rise into the light
where I can disappear.

Where you can be like light –
and happiness is mine! –
and learn from every star
what it means to shine.

All I want to say is,
the whispering you hear –
that’s the sound of light
I whisper in your ear.

The thing that makes us light
the thing that makes us shine
is that I whisper words
and that this voice is mine.

 

The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems

(New York Review Books Classics)

Translated by Paul Schmidt.

 

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