History of Literature

Marina Tsvetaeva




Marina Tsvetaeva

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Marina Tsvetaeva



Marina Tsvetaeva

Marina Tsvetaeva

Marina Tsvetaeva

Marina Tsvetaeva

Marina Tsvetaeva and Ariadna

Marina Tsvetaeva and son, Georgy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva (Marina Ivanovna Cvetaeva) (26 September/8 October 1892 – 31 August 1941) was a Russian poet and writer.

Marina Tsvetaeva was born in Moscow. She was one of the most original of the Russian 20th-century poets. Her work was not looked kindly upon by Stalin and the Bolshevik régime; her literary rehabilitation only began in the 1960s. Tsvetaeva's poetry arose from her own deeply convoluted personality, her eccentricity and tightly disciplined use of language. Among her themes were female sexuality, and the tension in women's private emotions; she bridges the mutually contradictory schools of Acmeism and symbolism.

Much of Tsvetaeva's poetry has its roots in the depths of her displaced and disturbed childhood. Her father was Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetaev, a professor of art history at the University of Moscow, who later founded the Alexander III Museum, which is now known as the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Tsvetaeva's mother, Maria Alexandrovna Meyn, was Ivan's second wife, a highly literate woman. She was also a volatile (and a frustrated) concert pianist, with some Polish ancestry on her mother's side. (This latter fact was to play on Marina's imagination, and to cause her to identify herself with the Polish aristocracy.) Marina had two half-siblings, Valeria and Andrei, who were the children of Ivan's deceased first wife, Varvara Dmitrievna Ilovaisky (daughter of the historian Dmitry Ilovaisky). Her only full sister, Anastasia, was born in 1894. Quarrels among the children were frequent and occasionally violent. There was considerable tension between Tsvetaeva's mother and Varvara's children, and Tsvetaeva's father maintained close contact with Varvara's family. Maria favoured Anastasia over Marina. Tsvetaeva's father was kind, but deeply wrapped up in his studies and distant from his family. He was also still deeply in love with his first wife; he would never get over her. Maria, for her part, had had a tragic love affair before her marriage, from which she never recovered. Maria Alexandrovna particularly disapproved of Marina's poetic inclination. She wished her daughter to become a pianist and thought her poetry was poor. In 1902, Tsvetaeva's mother contracted tuberculosis. Because it was believed that a change in climate could help cure the disease, the family travelled abroad until shortly before her death in 1906. They lived for a while by the sea at Nervi, near Genoa. There, away from the rigid constraints of a bourgeois Muscovite life, Marina was able for the first time to run free, climb cliffs, and vent her imagination in childhood games. It should be noted that there were many Russian émigré revolutionaries residing at that time in Nervi, and undoubtedly these people would have had some influence on the impressionable Marina. The children began to run wild. This state of affairs was allowed to continue until June 1904, when Marina was dispatched to school in Lausanne. Changes in the Tsvetaev residence led to several changes in school, and during the course of her travels she acquired the Italian, French, and German languages. In 1908, Tsvetaeva studied literary history at the Sorbonne. During this time, a major revolutionary change was occurring within Russian poetry: the flowering of the Russian Symbolist movement, and this movement was to colour most of her later work. It was not the theory which was to attract her, but the poetry and the immense gravity which writers such as Andrey Bely and Aleksandr Blok were capable of generating. Her own first collection of poems, Evening Album, was self-published in 1910. It attracted the attention of the poet and critic Maximilian Voloshin, whom Tsvetaeva described after his death in 'A Living Word About a Living Man'. Voloshin came to see Tsvetaeva and soon became her friend and mentor.

Anastasia and Marina

She began spending time at Voloshin's home in the Black Sea resort of Koktebel (trans. "Blue Height"), which was a well-known haven for writers, poets and artists. She became enamoured of the work of Aleksandr Blok and Anna Akhmatova, although she never met Blok and did not meet Akhmatova until the 1940s. Describing the Koktebel community, the émigré Viktoria Schweitzer wrote: "Here inspiration was born." At Koktebel, Tsvetaeva met Sergei (Seryozha) Yakovlevich Efron, a cadet in the Officers' Academy. She was 19, he 18: they fell in love instantly and were married in 1912, the same year as her father's project, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, was ceremonially opened, an event attended by Czar Nicholas II. Tsvetaeva's love for Efron was intense, however, this did not preclude her from having affairs, including one with Osip Mandelstam, which she celebrated in a collection of poems called Mileposts. At around the same time, she became involved in an affair with the poet Sofia Parnok, who was 7 years older than Tsvetaeva. The two women fell deeply in love, and the relationship profoundly affected both women's writings. She deals with the ambiguous and tempestuous nature of this relationship in a cycle of poems which at times she called The Girlfriend, and at other times The Mistake.

Tsvetaeva and her husband spent summers in the Crimea until the revolution, and had two daughters: Ariadna, or Alya (born 1912) and Irina (born 1917). Then, in 1914, Efron volunteered for the front; by 1917 he was an officer stationed in Moscow with the 56th Reserve. Tsetsaeva was to witness the Russian Revolution first hand. On trains, she came into contact with ordinary Russian people and was shocked by the mood of anger and violence. She wrote in her journal: "In the air of the compartment hung only three axe-like words: bourgeois, Junkers, leeches". After the 1917 Revolution, Efron joined the White Army, and Marina returned to Moscow hoping to be reunited with her husband. She was trapped in Moscow for five years, where there was a terrible famine. She wrote six plays in verse and narrative poems, including The Tsar's Maiden (1920), and her epic about the Civil War, The Swans' Encampment, which glorified those who fought against the communists. The cycle of poems in the style of a diary or journal begins on the day of Czar Nicholas II's abdication in March 1917, and ends late in 1920, when the anti-communist White Army was finally defeated. The 'swans' of the title refers to the volunteers in the White Army, in which her husband was fighting as an officer. The Moscow famine was to exact a terrible toll on Tsvetaeva. Starvation and worry were to erode her looks. With no immediate family to turn to, she had no way to support herself or her daughters. In 1919, she placed Irina in a state orphanage, mistakenly believing that she would be better fed there. Tragically, she was mistaken, and Irina died of starvation in 1920. The child's death caused Tsvetaeva great grief and regret. In one letter, she said, 'God punished me.' During these years, Tsvetaeva maintained a close and intense friendship with the actress Sofia Evgenievna Holliday, for whom she wrote a number of plays. Many years later, she would write the novella "Povest' o Sonechke" about her relationship with Holliday, who ended up betraying her.

Marina Tsvetaeva
and Efron


Berlin and Prague
In May 1922, Tsvetaeva and Ariadna left the Soviet Union and were reunited with Efron in Berlin. There she published the collections Separation, Poems to Blok, and the poem The Tsar Maiden. In August 1922, the family moved to Prague. Unable to afford living accommodation in Prague itself, with Efron studying politics and sociology at the Charles University in Prague and living in hostels, Tsvetaeva and Ariadna found rooms in a village outside the city. In Prague, Tsvetaeva had a passionate affair with Konstantin Boeslavovich Rozdevitch, a former military officer. This affair became widely known throughout émigré circles, and even to Efron himself. Efron was devastated by the affair (this is well-documented and supported particularly by a letter which he wrote to Voloshin on the matter). It was bound to end disastrously, and it did. Her break-up with Rozdevitch in 1923 was almost certainly the inspiration for her great 'The Poem of the End'. This relationship was also the inspiration for "The Poem of the Mountain". At about the same time, a more important relationship began: Tsvetaeva's correspondence with Boris Pasternak, who had stayed in the Soviet Union. The two were not to meet for nearly twenty years, but for a time they were in love, and they maintained an intimate friendship until Tsvetaeva's return to Russia. In summer 1924, Efron and Tsvetaeva left Prague for the suburbs, living for a while in Jiloviste, before moving on to Vsenory, where Tsvetaeva completed "The Poem of the End", and was to conceive their son, Georgy, whom she was to later nickname 'Mur'. Tsvetaeva wanted to name him Boris (after Pasternak); Efron would have none of it and insisted on Georgy. He was to be a most difficult and demanding child. Nevertheless, Tsetaeva loved him in the only way she knew, obsessively. Ariadna was relegated immediately to the role of mother's helper and confidante, and was consequently robbed of much of her childhood. However, the child did not reciprocate. The older he grew, the more difficult and obstreperous he became.

Marina Tsvetaeva

In 1925, the family settled in Paris, where they would live for the next 14 years. At about this time Efron contracted tuberculosis, adding to the family's difficulties. Tsvetaeva received a meagre stipend from the Czechoslovak government, which gave financial support to artists and writers who had lived in Czechoslovakia. In addition, she tried to make whatever she could from readings and sales of her work. She turned more and more to writing prose because she found it made more money than poetry. Tsvetaeva did not feel at all at home in Paris's predominantly ex-bourgeois circle of Russian émigré writers. Although she had written passionately pro-White poems during the Revolution, her fellow émigrés thought that she was insufficiently anti-Soviet, and that her criticism of the Soviet régime was altogether too nebuluous. She was particularly criticised for writing an admiring letter to the Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. In the wake of this letter, the émigré paper The Latest News, to which Tsvetaeva had been a frequent contributor, refused point blank to publish any more of her work. She found solace in her correspondence with other writers, including Boris Pasternak, Rainer Maria Rilke, the Czech poet Anna Teskova, and the critics D. S. Mirsky and Aleksandr Bakhrakh.


Husband's involvement with espionage
Meanwhile, Tsvetaeva's husband was rapidly developing Soviet sympathies and was homesick for Russia. He was, however, afraid because of his past as a White soldier. Eventually, either out of idealism or to garner acceptance from the Communists, he began spying for the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB. Alya shared his views, and increasingly turned against her mother. In 1937, she returned to the Soviet Union. Later that year, Efron too had to return to Russia. The French police had implicated him in the murder of the former Soviet defector Ignaty Reyss in September 1937, on a country lane near Lausanne. After Efron's escape, the police interrogated Tsvetaeva, but she seemed confused by their questions and ended up reading them some French translations of her poetry. The police concluded that she was deranged and knew nothing of the murder. (Later it was learned that Efron possibly had also taken part in the assassination of Trotsky's son in 1936). Tsvetaeva does not seem to have known that her husband was a spy, nor the extent to which he was compromised. However, she was held responsible for his actions and was ostracised in Paris because of the implication that he was involved with the NKVD. World War II
 had made Europe as unsafe and hostile as Russia. Tsvetaeva felt that she no longer had a choice.

Return to the Soviet Union
In 1939, she and her son returned to the Soviet Union. She could not have foreseen the horrors which were in store for her. In Stalin's Russia, anyone who had lived abroad was suspect, as was anyone who had been among the intelligentsia before the Revolution. Tsvetaeva's sister had been arrested before Tsvetaeva's return; although Anastasia survived the Stalin years, the sisters never saw each other again. Tsvetaeva found that all doors had closed to her. She got bits of work translating poetry, but otherwise the established Soviet writers refused to help her, and chose to ignore her plight; Aseyev, who she had hoped would assist, shyed away, fearful for his life and position. Efron and Alya were arrested for espionage. Alya's fiancé, it turned out, was actually an NKVD agent who had been assigned to spy on the family. Efron was shot in 1941; Alya served over eight years in prison. Both were exonerated after Stalin's death. In 1941, Tsvetaeva and her son were evacuated to Yelabuga, while most families of the Union of Soviet writers were evacuated to Chistopol. Tsvetaeva had no means of support in Yelabuga, and on August 24, 1941 she left for Chistopol desperately seeking for a job. On August 26, 1941, Marina Tsvetaeva and poet Valentin Parnakh applied to the Soviet of Literature Fund asking for a job at the LitFund's canteen. Valentin Parnakh was accepted as a doorman, while Tsvetaeva's application for a permission to live in Chistopol was turned down and she had to return to Yelabuga on August 28. On 31 August, 1941 while living in Yelabuga, Tsvetaeva hanged herself. She was buried in Yelabuga cemetery on September 2, 1941, but the exact location of her grave remains unknown. There have always been rumours that Tsvetaeva's death wasn't suicide. On the day of her death she was home alone (her host family was out) and, according to Yelabuga residents, NKVD agents came to her house and forced her to commit suicide. These rumours remain unconfirmed. In the town of Yelabuga, the Tsvetaeva house museum can be visited, as well as a monument to her. In the museum, Tsvetaeva's farewell note, written just before her death, can be seen.

Her work
From a poem she wrote in 1913, in which she displays her propensity for prophecy:

Scattered in bookstores, greyed by dust and time,
Unseen, unsought, unopened, and unsold,
My poems will be savoured as are rarest wines -
When they are old.

Conversely, her poetry was much admired by poets such as Valery Bryusov, Maximilian Voloshin, Osip Mandelstam, Boris Pasternak, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Anna Akhmatova. Today, that recognition is sustained by the poet Joseph Brodsky, pre-eminent among Tsvetaeva's champions. Tsvetaeva is primarily a poet-lyricist, since her lyrical voice remains clearly audible in her narrative poetry. Her lyric poems fill ten collections; the uncollected lyrics would add at least another volume. Her first two collections indicate their subject matter in their titles: Evening Album (Vechernii al'bom, 1910) and The Magic Lantern (Volshebnyi fonar', 1912). The poems are vignettes of a tranquil childhood and youth in a professorial, middle-class home in Moscow, and display considerable grasp of the formal elements of style. The full range of Tsvetaeva's talent developed quickly, and was undoubtedly influenced by the contacts which she had made at Koktebel, and was made evident in two new collections: Mileposts (Versty, 1921) and Mileposts: Book One (Versty, Vypusk I, 1922). Three elements of Tsvetaeva's mature style emerge in the Mileposts collections. First, Tsvetaeva dates her poems and publishes them chronologically. The poems in Mileposts: Book One, for example, were written in 1916 and resolve themselves as a versified journal. Secondly, there are cycles of poems which fall into a regular chronological sequence among the single poems, evidence that certain themes demanded further expression and development. One cycle announces the theme of Mileposts: Book One as a whole: the "Poems of Moscow." Two other cycles are dedicated to poets, the "Poems to Akhmatova" and the "Poems to Blok", which again reappear in a separate volume, Poems to Blok (Stikhi k Bloku, 1922). Thirdly, the Mileposts collections demonstrate the dramatic quality of Tsvetaeva's work, and her ability to assume the guise of multiple dramatis personae within them. The collection entitled Separation (Razluka, 1922) was to contain Tsvetaeva's first long verse narrative, "On a Red Steed" (Na krasnom kone). The poem is a prologue to three more verse-narratives written between 1920 and 1922. All four narrative poems draw on folkloric plots. Tsvetaeva acknowledges her sources in the titles of the very long works, The Maiden-Tsar: A Fairy-tale Poem (Tsar'-devitsa: Poema-skazka, 1922) and "The Swain", subtitled "A Fairytale" (Molodets: skazka, 1924). The fourth folklore-style poem is entitled "Byways" (Pereulochki, published in 1923 in the collection Remeslo), and it is the first poem which may be deemed incomprehensible in that it is fundamentally a soundscape of language. The collection Psyche (Psikheya, 1923) contains one of Tsvetaeva's best-known cycles "Insomnia" (Bessonnitsa) and the poem The Swans' Encampment (Lebedinyi stan, Stikhi 1917-1921, published in 1957) which celebrates the White Army. Subsequently, as an émigré, Tsvetaeva's last two collections of lyrics were published by émigré presses, Craft (Remeslo, 1923) in Berlin and After Russia (Posle Rossii, 1928) in Paris. There then followed the twenty-three lyrical "Berlin" poems, the pantheistic "Trees" (Derev'ya), "Wires" (Provoda) and "Pairs" (Dvoe), and the tragic "Poets" (Poetry). "After Russia" contains the poem "In Praise of the Rich", in which Tsvetaeva's oppositional tone is merged with her proclivity for ruthless satire.

In 1924, Tsvetaeva wrote "Poem of the End", which details a walk around Prague and across its bridges; the walk is about the final walk she will take with her lover Konstantin Rodzevitch. In it everything is foretold: in the first few lines (translated by Elaine Feinstein) the future is already written:

A single post, a point of rusting
tin in the sky
marks the fated place we
move to, he and I

Again, further poems foretell future developments. Principal among these is the voice of the classically-oriented Tsvetaeva heard in cycles "The Sibyl," "Phaedra," and "Ariadne." Tsvetaeva's beloved, ill-starred heroines recur in two verse plays, Theseus-Ariadne (Tezei-Ariadna, 1927) and Phaedra (Fedra, 1928). These plays form the first two parts of an incomplete trilogy entitled Aphrodite's Rage. The satirist in Tsvetaeva plays second fiddle only to the poet-lyricist. Several satirical poems, moreover, are among Tsvetaeva's best-known works: "The Train of Life" (Poezd zhizni) and "The Floorcleaners' Song" (Poloterskaya), both included in After Russia, and The Rat-catcher (Krysolov, 1925-1926), a long, folkloric narrative. The target of Tsvetaeva's satire is everything petty and petty bourgeois. Unleashed against such dull creature comforts is the vengeful, unearthly energy of workers both manual and creative. In her notebook, Tsvetaeva writes of "The Floorcleaners' Song": "Overall movement: the floorcleaners ferret out a house's hidden things, they scrub a fire into the door... What do they flush out? Coziness, warmth, tidiness, order... Smells: incense, piety. Bygones. Yesterday... The growing force of their threat is far stronger than the climax." The poem which Tsvetaeva describes as liricheskaia satira, The Rat-Catcher, is loosely based on the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The Rat-Catcher, which is also known as The Pied Piper, is considered by some to be the finest of Tsvetaeva's work. It was also partially an act of hommage to Heinrich Heine's poem Die Wanderatten. The Rat-Catcher appeared initially, in serial format, in the émigré journal Volia Rossii in 1925-1926 whilst still being written. It was not to appear in the Soviet Union until after the death of Stalin in 1956. Its hero is the Pied Piper of Hamelin who saves a town from hordes of rats and then leads the town's children away too, in retribution for the citizens' ingratitude. As in the other folkloric narratives, The Ratcatcher's story line emerges indirectly through numerous speaking voices which shift from invective, to extended lyrical flights, to bathos. Tsvetaeva's last ten years of exile, from 1928 when "After Russia" appeared until her return in 1939 to the Soviet Union, were principally a "prose decade", though this would almost certainly be by dint of economic necessity rather than one of choice.


Translators of Tsvetaeva's work into English include Elaine Feinstein and David McDuff. Nina Kossman translated many of Tsvetaeva's long (narrative) poems, as well as her lyrical poems; they are collected in two books, Poem of the End and In the Inmost Hour of the Soul. J. Marin King translated a great deal of Tsvetaeva's prose into English, compiled in a book called A Captive Spirit. Tsvetaeva scholar Angela Livingstone has translated a number of Tsvetaeva's essays on art and writing, compiled in a book called Art in the Light of Conscience. Livingstone's translation of Tsvetaeva's "The Ratcatcher" was published as a separate book. Mary Jane White has translated the early cycle "Miles" in a book called "Starry Sky to Starry Sky," as well has Tsvetaeva's elegy for Rilke, "New Year's," (Adastra Press 16 Reservation Road, Easthampton, MA 01027 USA) and "Poem of the End" and "Poem of the Hill." (New England Review). In 2002, Yale University Press published Jamey Gambrell's translation of post-revolutionary prose, entitled Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries, 1917-1922, with notes on poetic and linguistic aspects of Tsvetaeva's prose, and endnotes for the text itself. The Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich set six of Tsvetaeva's poems to music. Later the Russian-Tatar composer Sofia Gubaidulina wrote a Hommage à Marina Tsvetayeva featuring her poems. Her poem, Mne Nravitsya (it pleases me), was performed by Alla Pugacheva in the film Irony of Fate.


Joseph Brodsky

"Represented on a graph, Tsvetaeva's work would exhibit a curve--or rather, a straight line--rising at almost a right angle because of her constant effort to raise the pitch a note higher, an idea higher (or, more precisely, an octave and a faith higher.) She always carried everything she has to say to its conceivable and expressible end. In both her poetry and her prose, nothing remains hanging or leaves a feeling of ambivalence. Tsvetaeva is the unique case in which the paramount spiritual experience of an epoch (for us, the sense of ambivalence, of contradictoriness in the nature of human existence) served not as the object of expression but as its means, by which it was transformed into the material of art."


Joseph Brodsky







Translated by Andrey Kneller




My poems, written early, when I doubted
that I could ever play the poet’s part,
erupting, as though water from a fountain
or sparks from a petard,

and rushing as though little demons, senseless,
into a sanctuary, where incense spreads,
my poems about death and adolescence,
-that still remain unread!

collecting dust in bookstores all this time,
where no one comes to carry them away,
my poems, like exquisite, precious wines,
will have their day!





You, walking past me and racing
After charms that you’ll hardly attain, -
If you knew how much fire is wasted,
How much life is wasted in vain!

And what flames, so heroically rash,
An occasional shade can evoke,
And how my heart was burnt into ash
By this useless gunpowder smoke.

O, those trains leaving terminals nightly,
Carrying sleep wherever they go …
Then again, it’s rather unlikely
That you’d know, even if you would know -

Why my speeches are sharp and brief,
In the smoke of my cigarette, -
How much dark and menacing grief
Is crammed in my golden-haired head.






The evening mist appeared above the town,
Submissive trains sped quickly through the haze,
Clear as the petals of anemones, a face
Flashed in a window, - youthful and round.

A shadow on her eyelids. Like a crown,
Those golden curls… I hushed myself, amazed:
I understood that with our moans, we raise
The long deceased from underneath the ground.

In valleys of my dreams, I’ve often greeted
- An apparition in the crowds of the station -
This youthful lady by the window seated.

But why was she so sad on this occasion?
What did this silhouette seek out and why?
Was she not happy - even in the sky?




My city’s vastness is submerged in night.
Away from sleeping buildings, I take flight.
The people that I see think: daughter, wife,-
But I remembered one thing only: night.

A mild, July wind shows me where to go.
In someone’s house, music’s playing - slow.
Through thin walls of my ribs, - I know -
This wind, up until dawn, will blow.

There’s a lit up window and a poplar tree,
A flower in my hand, a church-bell’s plea,
This path I take in no one’s footsteps - free,
And this lone shadow, - there is no me.

Golden threads of city lights’ rays.
And in my mouth, - this bitter leaf’s taste.
My friends, release me from the day’s maze.
You’re merely dreaming all of this, dazed.




You, walking past me and racing
After charms that you’ll hardly attain, -
If you knew how much fire is wasted,
How much life is wasted in vain!

And what flames, so heroically rash,
An occasional shade can evoke,
And how my heart was burnt into ash
By this useless gunpowder smoke.

O, those trains leaving terminals nightly,
Carrying sleep wherever they go …
Then again, it’s rather unlikely
That you’d know, even if you would know -

Why my speeches are sharp and brief,
In the smoke of my cigarette, -
How much dark and menacing grief
Is crammed in my golden-haired head.




You walk, somewhat like myself,
Hunched, and not looking up.
I used to lower my eyes as well!
Stop here, passerby, stop!

Having gathered your flowers in a
Bouquet, read the stone by the gate,
It will say - I was named Marina,
And I lived to the following date.

It’s a grave, but don’t treat it as such
My spirit won’t rise to haunt you
I, myself, loved laughing too much
Whenever I wasn’t supposed to.

My hair was once curled and twisted
And blood used to rush to my face.
Hey, passerby, I also existed!
Do not rush to abandon this place!

Hey passerby, pluck a wild stem
And after that – pick this berry.
No berries are sweeter than
The ones from a cemetery.

Only don’t stand there, sighing,
And please, do not hang your head.
But rather think of me lightly
And afterwards, likewise, forget.

How the sun shines down upon you!
Its rays set the dust aglow.
And don’t let my voice disturb you
And vex you from down below.




After a night of insomnia, the body gets weaker,
Becomes dear, but not yours or anybody’s to own.
Just like a seraph, you walk, smiling to people,
And in slow veins, arrows continue to moan.

After insomnia, arms lose their strength and droop down,
You become equally oblivious to friends and foes.
A whole rainbow appears in each unexpected sound,
And it smells of Florence during wintry frost.

Lips shine sweetly and shadows appear golden and light
Next to the sunken eyes. The dim evening skies
Have illuminated this image, - and from the dark night,
Only one thing grows darker and darker - our eyes.




Here, in my Moscow, - cupolas shine.
Here, in my Moscow, - church bells chime.
And tombstones, here, all stand aligned,
Tsarinas sleep there, and tsars.

You don’t know, but in the Kremlin, at dawn,
The air is lightest – and just here alone!
You don’t know, but in the Kremlin, each dawn,
I pray to you - until dusk.

And you stroll along your Neva River, slow,
While I stand alone where my Moskva flows.
With my head bowed low, I watch the blurry glow -
Streetlamps in the dusk.

With my whole insomnia, I’m in love with you,
With my whole insomnia, I am harking you,
While sextons awake in the Kremlin to
Carry out their morning tasks.

But, my Joy, my river – with your river still…
But, my Joy, my arm – with your arm, I feel,
Will not come together, at least, until
The dawn catches the dusk.




Two suns are cooling down, - God, I protest! -
One is in the sky, the other - in my chest.

How these two suns - could my conscience forget? -
How these two suns were always driving me mad!

Both cooling now, - their rays won’t hurt your eyes!
The one that burned the hottest is the first to die.





The august day was softly fleeting
Into the twilight’s golden dust.
And noisy streetcars passed by, speeding.
And people passed.

With no intention, absent-minded,
I took a quiet street, alone,
And church-bells sang somewhere behind me
Their quiet song.

I thought of you and I together,
I kept envisioning your pose,
I walked and contemplated whether
To bring a rose.

I kept rehearsing what I’d say.
Alas, I would forget the phrase.
Then - suddenly! - to my dismay! -
That very place.

So dreary, lifeless and immense…
There is the door, - I'm counting floors.
Involuntarily, the hands
Reach for the cross.

I count the stairs on my ascension,
They lead me to some flaming hell.
But there’s no time for contemplation.
I ring your bell.

I felt my arms chilled to the bone.
And I heard thunder, clear and loud.
At last, I called for you. - He’s home,
He’ll be right out.


Let everything be gone with time, --
The youthful days that I recall.
I won’t forget what bright designs
Adorned those walls.

I won’t forget those lampshade beads,
And someone’s zealous voices and
Port Arthur’s prints and clocks that beat
High overhead.

The moment was prolonged some more,
And then, I heard your footsteps near,
I heard the squeaking of the door,
And you appeared.


At once, I felt a deep attraction.
You bowed, - as simple as a king
Two brown stars, aglow up with passion,
Lit everything.

Your squinted eyes were large and warm,
You gazed upon my tender face.
O, if you only saw the storm
That just took place.

I struggled like a hero, fearless.
- O just to think, I tried the broth! -
I can recall your quiet whispers,
Your lips were soft.

I can recall your hair was softer
Than fur, and then, - most dear and nice! -
Those wrinkles that arose from laughter
Beneath your eyes.

Forgot it? - I will not forget it,
You sat right there - and I was here.
What strength it took for me to bare it,
To sit so near –

And let out rings of smoke, suppressing
My nervousness and showing peace.
It was becoming so distressing
To sit like this.

We spoke about the letter “yat,’”
Old alphabet and weather patterns.
Another meal as strange as that
Will never happen.

The lights were dim. I turned around,
And laughing, I surprised myself:
“Eyes of a pure-bred, loyal hound.
- Dear sir, farewell.”


With no intention, absent-minded,
I took a quiet street, alone,
This time, no church-bells sang behind me
Their quiet song.




I’ll conquer you from any land and from any sky,
For the forest is my cradle and it’s where I’ll die,
Because, here, on this earth, I stand - only on one foot,
And because I’ll sing for you - like no other could.

I’ll conquer you from any epoch, from any night,
From any golden banner, from any sword in a fight,
I’ll chase the dogs off the porch, toss away the key
For, in this night, a dog is less loyal than me.

I’ll conquer you from all others and from that one too,
I’ll be no one’s wife, - you’ll be no one’s groom.
I’ll win the last battle, - hush! - and pull you aside
From the one, with whom, Jacob fought all night.

Till I cross my hands on your chest, - I’m cursed! -
And until that day, you’ll remain - just yours,
This is why your wings aim for the upper sky, -
For the world’s your cradle and it’s where you’ll die!




They thought – just a man!
And forced him to die.
He is dead. The end.
- Cry for the angel, cry!

Before the fall of night,
He praised the evening splendor
Three waxen lights
- Superstitious - tremble.

He emitted bright light;
On the snow, strings smoldered.
Just three candles shine –
For the sun-holder!

Oh, will you look - how
His eyelids are flattened!
Oh, will you look - how
His wings have been shattered!

People pray with the priest.
He reads the selection…
- The poet lies, deceased,
And celebrates resurrection.




This night, I wander, all alone outside, -
A sleepless nun, a homeless traveler! -
I have the keys from all the gates tonight
Of this unique, and one and only capital!

Insomnia has pushed me into town,
- How stunning you appear, O dusky Kremlin! -
This night, I kiss the boisterous and round,
The hostile, warring planet on the temple!

The muggy wind blows straight into the soul.
And not the hair arises, but the fleece!
This night, alone, I pity, one and all, -
Those who are pitied presently and kissed.




Where does such tenderness come from?
These curls that I stroke with my hand
Aren’t the first that I’ve stroked, and I
Knew lips that were darker than yours.

Stars rose in the sky and faded,
Where does such tenderness come from? –
And glowing eyes also rose and faded
Right next to my own two eyes.

And I used to listen to greater hymns
In complete darkness, at night,
Betrothed - Oh, tenderness! -
On the chest of the singer himself.

Where does such tenderness come from,
And what do I do with it, you, sly,
Adolescent, vagabond singer,
Whose eyelashes couldn’t be longer?




I stare into the mirrored glass, -
All hazy, drowsy and foggy, -
To ascertain where you will pass
And where you’ll stop for lodging.

I look and see: An old ship’s mast.
There, on the deck, you’re standing…
You, by the clouded train… The vast,
Green fields, at night, lamenting…

The evening countryside in dew,
There, ravens soar in flight…
--My dear one, I am blessing you
To go where you decide!




I like the fact that you’re not mad about me,
I like the fact that I’m not mad for you,
And that the globe of planet earth is grounded
And will not drift away beneath our shoes.
I like the fact that I can laugh here loudly,
Not play with words, feel unashamed and loose
And never flush with stifling waves above me
When we brush sleeves, and not need an excuse.

I like the fact that you don’t feel ashamed
As you, before my eyes, embrace another,
I like the fact that I will not be damned
To hell for kissing someone else with ardor,
That you would never use my tender name
In vain, that in the silence of the church’s towers,
We’ll never get to hear the sweet refrain
Of hallelujahs sung somewhere above us.

With both, my heart and hand, I thank you proudly
For everything, - although you hardly knew
You loved me so: and for my sleeping soundly,
And for the lack of twilight rendezvous,
No moonlit walks with both your arms around me,
No sun above our heads or skies of blue,
For never feeling - sadly! - mad about me,
For me not feeling - sadly! - mad for you.




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