Author:

Our Sun

This sun was mine and yours; we shared it.
Who’s suffering behind the golden silk, who’s dying?
A woman beating her dry breasts cried out; `Cowards,
they’ve taken my children and torn them to shreds, you’ve
killed them
gazing at the fire-flies at dusk with a strange look,
lost in blind thought.’
The blood was drying on a hand that a tree made green,
a warrior was asleep clutching the lance that cast light
against his side.

It was ours, this sun, we saw nothing behind the gold
embroidery
then the messengers came, dirty and breathless,
stuttering unintelligible words
twenty days and nights on the barren earth with thorns only
twenty days and nights feeling the bellies of the horses
bleering
and not a moment’s break to drink rain-water.
You told them to rest first and then to speak, the light had
dazzled you.
They died saying `We don’t have time’, touching some rays
of the sun.
You’d forgotten that no one rests.

A woman howled `Cowards’. like a dog in the night.
Once she would have been beautiful like you
with the wet mouth, veins alive beneath the skin,
with love.

This sun is ours; you kept all of it, you wouldn’t follow
me.
And it was then I found about those things behind the
gold and the silk:
we don’t have time. The messengers were right

Simplicity..

I want nothing more but to speak simple, to be given this favour. Because we even charged the song with so much music that it is slowly sinking.

In Jest

Goodbye, fame! Put someone else in my niche.
I’d swap a seat in the President’s jeep
for a warm corner in a ditch
where I could go soundly off to sleep.
Oh, how I would unload my fears,
pour all my deadly, dreary pride
into the burdocks’ hairy ears
as I lay fidgeting on my side.
And I would wake up, with unshaven chin,
amongst the bugs and little insects.
Oh how marvelously unknown! –
someone fit to dance gypsy steps.
Far off, people would grasp for power,
hang by their nails from the top of the tower,
but none of this would send me sour,
in a ditch I would be lower.
And there, embracing a mangy dog,
I would lie down and make my berth
in the friendly dust, holding dialogue
on the highest level-of the earth.
Alongside, the bare feet of a girl
would float innocently by,
and pale blades of grass would twirl
down from the haycarts between me and the sky.
On a bench a smoker would toss out
a cigarette pack, squashed and empty,
and from the label the twisted mouth
of Blok would sadly smile at me.

Translated by Geoffrey Dutton with Igor Mezhakoff-Koriakin

Humor

Tsars, Kings, Emperors,
sovereigns of all the earth,
have commanded many a parade,
but they could not command humor.
When Aesop, the tramp, came visiting
the palaces of eminent personages
ensconced in sleek comfort all day,
they struck him as paupers.
In houses, where hypocrites have
left the smear of their puny feet,
there Hodja-Nasr-ed-Din, with his jests,
swept clean all meanness
like a board of chessmen!
They tried to commission humor-
but humor is not to be bought!
They tried to murder humor,
but humor thumbed his nose at them!
It’s hard to fight humor.
They executed him time and again.
His hacked-off head
was stuck on the point of a pike.
But as soon as the mummer’s pipes
began their quipping tale,
humor defiantly cried:
‘I’m back, I’m here! ‘,
and started to foot a dance.
in an overcoat, shabby and short,
with eyes cast down and a mask of repentance,
he, a political criminal,
now under arrest, walked to his execution.
He appeared to submit in every way,
accepting the life-beyond,
but of a sudden he wriggled out of his coat,
and, waving his hand, did a bolt.
Humor was shoved into cells,
but much good that did.
Humor went straight through
prison bars and walls of stone.
Coughing from the lungs
like any man in the ranks,
he marched singing a popular ditty,
rifle in hand upon the Winter Palace.
He’s accustomed to frowning looks,
but they do him no harm;
and humor at times with humor
glances at himself.
He’s everpresent. Nimble and quick,
he’ll slip through anything, through everyone.
So- glory be to humor.
He- is a valiant man.

Translated by George Reavey

The Depth

The bellow of a steamer in the morning
woke the coniferous distances,
and we stood on deck,
spellbound by the Angara,
gazing straight to the river-floor,
where the painted rocks gleamed
through a bright green dimension.
We could not trust our eyes.
It seemed, at times, in our passage
that we could reach over the side
and with our fingertips touch bottom;
for depth could not be gauged
in that transparency of water.
Of course I know that danger lurks
in the unturbidity of the wave,
and that the clearest purling stream
may be the shallowest.
But deepness isn’t all.
I wouldn’t give a tinker’s dam
for a stupid stagnant pond
where the eye sees nothing plain.
Let me be like the flow of a river
obliquely struck by the sunset glow,
as deep as measureless,
with each small pebble shining through!

Colours

When your face came rising
above my crumpled life,
the only thing I understood at first
was how meager were all my possessions.
But your face cast a peculiar glow
on forests, seas, and rivers,
initiating into the colors of the world
uninitiated me.
I’m so afraid, I’m so afraid,
the unexpected dawn might end,
ending the discoveries, tears, and raptures,
but I refuse to fight this fear.
This fear-I understand-
is love itself. I cherish this fear,
not knowing how to cherish,
I, careless guardian of my love.
This fear has ringed me tightly.
These moments are so brief, I know,
and, for me, the colors will disappear
when once your face has set…

Translated by George Reavey

THE DAY WE WENT TO THE SEA

The day we went to the sea
mothers in Madras were mining
the Marina for missing children.
Thatch flew in the sky, prisoners
ran free, houses danced like danger
in the wind. I saw a woman hold
the tattered edge of the world
in her hand, look past the temple
which was still standing, as she was –
miraculously whole in the debris of gaudy
South Indian sun. When she moved
her other hand across her brow,
in a single arcing sweep of grace,
it was as if she alone could alter things,
bring us to the wordless safety of our beds.

Girls are coming out of the Woods

Girls are coming out of the woods,
wrapped in cloaks and hoods,
carrying iron bars and candles
and a multitude of scars, collected
on acres of premature grass and city
buses, in temples and bars. Girls
are coming out of the woods
with panties tied around their lips,
making such a noise, it’s impossible
to hear. Is the world speaking too?
Is it really asking, What does it mean
to give someone a proper resting? Girls are
coming out of the woods, lifting
their broken legs high, leaking secrets
from unfastened thighs, all the lies
whispered by strangers and swimming
coaches, and uncles, especially uncles,
who said spreading would be light
and easy, who put bullets in their chests
and fed their pretty faces to fire,
who sucked the mud clean
off their ribs, and decorated
their coffins with brier. Girls are coming
out of the woods, clearing the ground
to scatter their stories. Even those girls
found naked in ditches and wells,
those forgotten in neglected attics,
and buried in river beds like sediments
from a different century. They’ve crawled
their way out from behind curtains
of childhood, the silver-pink weight
of their bodies pushing against water,
against the sad, feathered tarnish
of remembrance. Girls are coming out
of the woods the way birds arrive
at morning windows – pecking
and humming, until all you can hear
is the smash of their miniscule hearts
against glass, the bright desperation
of sound – bashing, disappearing.
Girls are coming out of the woods.
They’re coming. They’re coming.

"Mike Teavee…"

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.