6 A Final Talk
Life has come back as causelessly
As once it was strangely broken off.
I am here on the same old street
As then, that summer day and hour.
The same people and the cares the same,
And the fire of sunset not yet cooled,
As when death’s evening hastily
Nailed it to the wall of the Manège.
Women in cheap workday clothes
In the same way wear out their shoes at night.
And later the garrets crucify them
In the same way on the iron roofs.
Here one with a weary gait
Slowly emerges on the threshold
And, climbing up from the half-basement,
Goes diagonally across the yard.
I again ready my excuses,
And again it’s all the same to me.
And the neighbour woman skirts the backyard,
Leaving the two of us alone.
Don’t cry, don’t pucker your swollen lips,
Don’t gather them in wrinkles.
You’ll re-open the dried-up scab
Of your spring fever sore.
Take your palm off of my breast,
We are high-tension wires,
Watch out, or by accident we may be
Thrown together again.
Years will pass, you will get married,
And forget all this disorder.
To be a woman is a giant step,
To drive men mad - heroic.
While at the miracle of a woman’s arms,
Shoulders, and back, and neck,
I’ve stood in reverence all my life
Like a devoted servant.
But howsoever night may bind me
With its anguished coil,
Strongest of all is the pull away,
The passion for a clean break.
7 Summer in Town
Talk in half-whispers,
And with fervent haste
She gathers her hair up
In a shock from the nape.
A woman in a helmet
Looks from under the big comb,
Tossing back her head
With its braids and all.
But the night outside is hot
And promises bad weather,
And, shuffling as they pass,
Pedestrians head for home.
Abrupt thunder comes
With sharp reverberations,
And the wind flutters
The curtains of the windows.
A hushed stillness follows,
But it’s sultry as before,
And lightning as before
Rummages in the sky.
And when the intense, radiant
Morning heat dries up
The puddles on the boulevards
After the night’s downpour,
The still-flowering lindens,
Fragrant, centuries old,
Look gloweringly around them,
Having had too little sleep.
I’m no more, but you’re still alive,
And the wind, complaining, weeping,
Sways the forest and the dacha,
Not each pine tree separately,
But all in their entirety,
With all the boundless distances,
Like the hulls of sailing ships
On the smooth surface of a harbour.
And it’s not out of mere bravado,
Nor out of pointless fury, but
So as in anguish to find words
To make for you a lullaby.
Under a willow twined with ivy
We seek shelter from the rain.
Our shoulders are covered by a raincoat,
And my arms are twined about you.
I was wrong. These thick bushes
Are wound not with ivy, but with hops.
Better, then, let’s take this raincoat
And spread it out wide under us.
10 Indian Summer
The currant leaf is coarse and nappy,
There’s laughter in the house and the clink of glass,
There’s chopping there, and pickling, and peppering,
And cloves are put into the marinade.
The forest, like a scoffer, flings this noise
As far away as the precipitous slope
Where the hazel grove burnt by the sun
Looks as if a bonfire’s heat had scorched it.
Here the road descends into a gully,
Here you feel pity for the dry old snags
And for the poor rag-picker, Mistress Autumn,
Who sweeps it all down into the ravine.
And because the universe is simpler
Than some clever thinker might suppose,
Because the grove is feeling so crestfallen,
Because it is all coming to its end.
Because it is senseless to stand blinking
When everything before you is burnt down,
And the white autumnal soot
Draws its cobwebs across the window.
There’s a way from the garden through the broken fence,
And it loses itself among the birches.
Inside there’s laughter and the noise of housework,
And the same noise and laughter far away.
Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
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