The unicorns are soaked in the snow.
They try to shelter in the falling foliage.
The shepherd of a cat is saying: “I watch
The clouds just to see the faces better
Of those ghosts that are with me together
Staying in the shade of trees soaked to the skin…”
The light of the off-season’s drawn with leaves,
Just wait and winter will enter in the gates,
The ones that are inside yourself, inside
These blurred and flowing pareidolias.
The cat meows as if to say: “Look”,
To the grand master of incarceration.
Having completely grazed their sides on twilight,
Three unicorns have jointly turned
Into clouds that are darkening fast
And joined an army of street photo tricks.
Red fox is now a new off-season color
As well as white hare looking for a carrot.
The moon is carrying light and gliding lightly
And sends its amber cryptograms to forests.
The shepherd yawns and autumn comes to mouth
With crystal visions but without sounds
That are supposedly seen just by the cat,
The breathing clouds in those gray tattoos…
And how to end if not by rain that opens
The gates where extra locks are loose…
The shepherd’s taking off within himself
Into the afterlife available to tomcats.
Translated from Russian by Leonid Yakovlev
* * *
Brew this life in a golden teapot filled with darkness and gloom,
Melt the sugary words into worlds made of verses in bloom,
Let the anapest sparkle, let the iambs ignite in your head
After ages of angst and the proverbial bird in the hand.
Brew this potion with daisies infused with accentual verse,
Steepness-whiteness, magnificent nouns like “spring”, mighty verbs,
Let the sharp-clawed Death sail to hell through the Tuesday gate,
Take a bite of this life, – gently as if it were marmalade.
Take a bite of this life, let the stars spill and stream through the gap
On the bush, behind which you enjoyed an occasional nap,
So that pen gets the rosin while the bow breathes ink through the gills,
Take a bite of this Eden – from Europe to birdly Kurils.
Read the notes: they forgive all the poems on that side of Styx,
There Charon-ferryman serves on plates such a horrible mix,
That the poets would better not die, rather serve double time,
Wrap this drivel in paper like a boy hawker wrapping a pie.
Brew this life in a Moscow suburb with letters galore,
Where behind “the wall of China” they teach us the magic and lore.
Let the snub-nosed Death sail to Hades on Tuesday… Descend
Into silence and read all the Maenads’ vineyards to the end.
Translated from Russian by Simon Patlis
A Room with a view – remember Pissarro? –
Leap into verses, while holding on to
A silhouette in lilac under rows
Of ominous grey clouds. I wanted
To hold on to a mirage – the mystic view
The fog engulfed completely…
The painter reappeared as though on cue,
Wrapped up a passerby in a coat discreetly
And followed him to an empty lot
While he, Camille, whipped up a downpour
Which then, voilà, became a lily pond
Surrounded by common and obscure
Weeds, then clouds turned to fog,
And – one, two, three – into a phantom vision,
Then vanished. I am now alone. No shock,
It’s only a nightmare, rubbish, fiction!
The room is changing: shadows above
The shelf crossed wings and cleared.
The rainstorm is raging, I am hanging tough
Inside a poem – as in a bathysphere…
Translated from Russian by Irene Gersh
(On a Deserted Street)
All that Grim Reaper calls a happy-end
Is now in the skies on full display –
A frame in zoom, dramatic clouds and
Dim lights. High five from a mocking jay
That’s nearby. I dwell and dream
In darkness. The biggest of all fools,
I live where sadness reigns supreme,
Where fate cracks up, a sarcastic ghoul,
“You are an idiot and only see what
Gets you, an asshole, closer to the end.
Adjust your scarf and button up your coat,
Stay by a street light and go pound sand.”
Translated by Irene Gersh
Evgeny Chigrin is а poet and essayist. He has authored many books of poems; his most recent books are Погонщикк (Moscow, 2012), Неспящая бухта / A Non-Sleeping Bay (Moscow, 2014), and Подводный Шар /The Underwater Balloon (Moscow, 2015). His works were published in many literary magazines. His poems have been translated into English, Spanish, Polish, Serbian, Macedonian, Czech, Romanian, French, Arabic, Turkish, Hindi, Azerbaijani, Ukrainian, Belarusian.
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This collection, compiled, translated, and edited by poet and scholar Ian Probstein, provides Anglophone audiences with a powerful selection of Mandelstam’s most beloved and haunting poems.
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