All all and all the dry worlds lever,
Stage of the ice, the solid ocean,
All from the oil, the pound of lava.
City of spring, the governed flower,
Turns in the earth that turns the ashen
Towns around on a wheel of fire.
How now my flesh, my naked fellow,
Dug of the sea, the glanded morrow,
Worm in the scalp, the staked and fallow.
All all and all, the corpse's lover,
Skinny as sin, the foaming marrow,
All of the flesh, the dry worlds lever.
Fear not the waking world, my mortal,
Fear not the flat, synthetic blood,
Nor the heart in the ribbing metal.
Fear not the tread, the seeded milling,
The trigger and scythe, the bridal blade,
Nor the flint in the lover's mauling.
Man of my flesh, the jawbone riven,
Know now the flesh's lock and vice,
And the cage for the scythe-eyed raver.
Know, O my bone, the jointed lever,
Fear not the screws that turn the voice,
And the face to the driven lover.
All all and all the dry worlds couple,
Ghost with her ghost, contagious man
With the womb of his shapeless people.
All that shapes from the caul and suckle,
Stroke of mechanical flesh on mine,
Square in these worlds the mortal circle.
Flower, flower the people's fusion,
O light in zenith, the coupled bud,
And the flame in the flesh's vision.
Out of the sea, the drive of oil,
Socket and grave, the brassy blood,
Flower, flower, all all and all.
When psalms surprise me with their music
And antiphons turn to rum
The Spirit sings: the bottom drops out of my soul.
And from the center of my cellar, Love, louder than thunder
Opens a heaven of naked air.
New eyes awaken.
I send Love's name into the world with wings
And songs grow up around me like a jungle.
Choirs of all creatures sing the tunes
Your Spirit played in Eden.
Zebras and antelopes and birds of paradise
Shine on the face of the abyss
And I am drunk with the great wilderness
Of the sixth day in Genesis.
But sound is never half so fair
As when that music turns to air
And the universe dies of excellence.
Sun, moon and stars
Fall from their heavenly towers.
Joys walk no longer down the blue world's shore.
Though fires loiter, lights still fly on the air of the gulf,
All fear another wind, another thunder:
Then one more voice
Snuffs all their flares in one gust.
And I go forth with no more wine and no more stars
And no more buds and no more Eden
And no more animals and no more sea:
While God sings by himself in acres of night
And walls fall down, that guarded Paradise.
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
Can it be right to give what I can give?
To let thee sit beneath the fall of tears
As salt as mine, and hear the sighing years
Re-sighing on my lips renunciative
Through those infrequent smiles which fail to live
For all thy adjurations? O my fears,
That this can scarce be right! We are not peers,
So to be lovers; and I own, and grieve,
That givers of such gifts as mine are, must
Be counted with the ungenerous. Out, alas!
I will not soil thy purple with my dust,
Nor breathe my poison on thy Venice-glass,
Nor give thee any love--which were unjust.
Beloved, I only love thee! let it pass.
While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher's ink.
She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.
But I know
it is because of the way
my mother's hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily, like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening.
Home sweet home sugar land
dripping springs of sweet water
golden acres where sudan
glen rose a sunray
cross plain and blooming grove
May the crystal sterling silver rising star
fall on dallastexas.
I got one and you want four
It's so hard to help you
I can't keep up with you no more
And you treat me like it's a sin
But you can't lock me in
You want me here with you right to the end
No thank you my friend
I fear the monkey in your soul
Won't you turn that bebop down
I can't hear my heart beat
Where's that fatback chord I found?
Honey don't you think it was wrong
To interrupt my song?
I'll pack my things and run so far from here
To Vasily Deomidovich Dubodel, who passed away in August 1988, and to all past and future victims of Chernobyl.
They did not register us
and our deaths
were not linked to the accident.
No processions laid wreaths,
no brass bands melted with grief.
They wrote us off as
cunning genetic disorders . . .
But we--we are the payment for rapid progress,
mere victim (of someone else's sated afternoons.
It wouldn't have been so annoying for us to die
had we known
our death would help
to avoid more "fatal mistakes"
and halt replication of "reckless deeds"!
But thousands of "competent" functionaries
count our "souls" in percentages,
their own honesty, souls, long gone--
so we suffocate with despair.
They wrote us off.
They keep trying to write off
our ailing truths
with their sanctimonious lies.
But nothing will silence us!
Even after death,
from our graves
we will appeal to your Conscience
not to transform the Earth
into a sarcophagus!
* * *
Peace unto your remains,
We'll all end up there sooner or later.
Like everyone, you wanted to live.
As it turned out,
you could not survive . . .
Your torment is done.
Our turn will come:
prepare us a roomier place over there.
Oh, if only our "mass departure"
could be a burning lump of truth
in duplicity's throat! . . .
May God not let anyone else
know our anguish!
May we be extinction's limit.
For this, you died.
Peace unto your remains,
from abandoned hamlets.
Translated from the Russian by Leonid Levin and Elisavietta Ritchie
On Death, Without Exaggeration
It can't take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.
In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.
It can't even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.
Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.
Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
and repeat attempts!
Sometimes it isn't strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.
All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.
Ill will won't help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d'etat
is so far not enough.
Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies' skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.
Whoever claims that it's omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it's not.
There's no life
that couldn't be immortal
if only for a moment.
always arrives by that very moment too late.
In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you've come
can't be undone.
What can I give thee back, O liberal
And princely giver, who hast brought the gold
And purple of thine heart, unstained, untold,
And laid them on the outside of the-wall
For such as I to take or leave withal,
In unexpected largesse? am I cold,
Ungrateful, that for these most manifold
High gifts, I render nothing back at all?
Not so; not cold,--but very poor instead.
Ask God who knows. For frequent tears have run
The colors from my life, and left so dead
And pale a stuff, it were not fitly done
To give the same as pillow to thy head.
Go farther! let it serve to trample on.
"Let Me Not To the Marriage Of..."
(From “Sonnets”, CXVI)Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alternations finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks at tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken,
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hour and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
The Beekeeper's Daughter
A garden of mouthings. Purple, scarlet-speckled, black
The great corollas dilate, peeling back their silks.
Their musk encroaches, circle after circle,
A well of scents almost too dense to breathe in.
Hieratical in your frock coat, maestro of the bees,
You move among the many-breasted hives,
My heart under your foot, sister of a stone.
Trumpet-throats open to the beaks of birds.
The Golden Rain Tree drips its powders down.
In these little boudoirs streaked with orange and red
The anthers nod their heads, potent as kings
To father dynasties. The air is rich.
Here is a queenship no mother can contest ---
A fruit that's death to taste: dark flesh, dark parings.
In burrows narrow as a finger, solitary bees
Keep house among the grasses. Kneeling down
I set my eyes to a hole-mouth and meet an eye
Round, green, disconsolate as a tear.
Father, bridegroom, in this Easter egg
Under the coronal of sugar roses
Taking distance and leave is the horny metaphysics
Of men who keep their love hot and moist
In a far-off spot, and so cook their days.
Leaving, slamming doors, is the pure zealotry
Of women who have swallowed their lovers
And make their swelling bodies into sheer religion.
I know those two, they are alone, but for each other.
They have time, the same one, but on grounds that differ
Like that banks of that one widespread stream.
In that water they lie abysmally reflected
Viewing the passing, passing the view.
And not a soul who knows what has got into them both.
(from Laat alle deuren op een kier. Verzamelde gedichten, 2004)
I woke up, it was the house where I was born,
Sea foam splashed against the rock,
Not a single bird, only the wind to open and close the wave,
Everywhere on the horizon the smell of ashes,
As if the hills were hiding a fire
That somewhere else was burning up a universe.
I went onto the veranda, the table was set,
The water knocked against the legs of the table, the sideboard.
And yet she had to come in, the faceless one,
The one I knew was shaking the door
In the hall, near the darkened staircase, but in vain,
So high had the water already risen in the room.
I took the handle, it was hard to turn,
I could almost hear the noises of the other shore,
The laughter of the children playing in the tall grass,
The games of the others, always the others, in their joy.
AT the corner of Wood Street, when daylight appears,
Hangs a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung for three years:
Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has heard
In the silence of morning the song of the Bird.
Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She sees
A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;
Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,
And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside.
Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,
Down which she so often has tripped with her pail;
And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove's,
The one only dwelling on earth that she loves.
She looks, and her heart is in heaven: but they fade,
The mist and the river, the hill and the shade:
The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise,
And the colours have all passed away from her eyes!
As a struck match, before becoming flame, white
flickering tongues in all directions sends,
so, bystanders looking on, unfolds her dance: bright,
hot and hurried, a circular rite,
pulsating with passion, and intense.
And suddenly it is fully aflare.
With just a glance she lights her hair,
and then, with daring art, turns her entire
dress into this flaming ball of fire,
from which, each like a startled snake,
her naked arms dart, rattling and awake.
Then, deeming too close the lambent heat,
she gathers all of if it together and flings it to her feet
with an imperious gesture, haughtily gazing.
There it lies on the floor, enraged and blazing,
and burning still, refusing to retire.
But, confident of victory, her smile assured and sweet,
she lifts her face as if in greeting to the fire,
and stamps it out with solid little feet.
HAD I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.