I have been wounded so often and so painfully,
dragging my way home at the merest crawl,
impaled not only by malicious tongues--
one can be wounded even by a petal.
And I myself have wounded--quite unwittingly--
with casual tenderness while passing by,
and later someone felt the pain,
it was like walking barefoot over the ice.
So why do I step upon the ruins
of those most near and dear to me,
I, who can be so simply and so sharply wounded
and can wound others with such deadly ease?
Whenever the wind
drops an alder catkin into my palm,
or a cuckoo calls merrily,
with trains screaming by,
I fall to reflecting,
and struggle to grasp life's meaning,
and, as usual, arrive
at the place where it slips from my grasp.
to a speck of dust in a starry nebula
is an old way out,
but wiser than trumped-up grandeur,
and it's no degradation
to realize one's own insignificance,
for in it we realize sadly
the implicit grandeur of life.
weightless as down,
only blow it away
and all changes utterly,
and life, it appears,
is not such a trifling matter,
when nothing about it
seems merely a trifle.
loftier than any prophecy!
The person who silently
pulls it to pieces is changed.
So what, if we can't
change the world in a flash, as we'd like--
when we change,
the world changes too!
We're then transported
into a kind of new quality
as we sail into the distance
to a new unknown land,
and we don't even notice
the rocking's strange rhythm
on new waters,
and a completely different ship.
When there suddenly wakes
the starless feeling of being a castaway
from those shores
where you greeted the dawn with such hope,
my dear companion,
there's no need, take it from me, to despair--
Trust in the unknown
alarmingly black anchorage!
What often alarms from afar
seems hardly perturbing in close-up.
There too are eyes, voices,
the minute glow of cigarettes.
But as you grow used to it,
the creak of what seems like a haven
will murmur to you
that no single haven exists.
Translucent the soul
that can't be embittered by change!
Forgive the friends who've misunderstood
or even betrayed you.
even if your lover stops loving you!
Set her free from your palm
like an alder catkin.
And don't trust a new haven
that starts to enfold you;
your vocation is
the havenless far-off distance.
Break away from the morning
if you become moored by habit,
and cast off again
and set sail for a different sorrow.
Let people say:
"Really, when will he get some sense!"
You can't please them all at one time.
What base common sense:
"It'll all blow over, it'll all come right in the end..."
When it all comes right in the end,
there's no point in living.
And what can't be explained
is in no way nonsensical.
All reassessments should not worry one in the least--
since the value of life
won't be lowered
the worth of what's beyond value
isn't subject to change.
...Why am I saying all this?
Because one stupid
chatterbox of a cuckoo
predicts a long life for me.
Why am I saying all this?
Because an alder catkin
lies in my palm,
and quivers, as if living..
To Y. Vasiliev
Translated by Arthur Boyars and Simon Franklin
Galileo, the clergy maintained,
was a pernicious and stubborn man.
But time has a way of demonstrating
the most stubborn are the most intelligent.
In Galileo's day, a fellow scientist
was no more stupid than Galileo.
He was well aware the earth revolved,
but he also had a large family to feed.
Stepping into a carriage with his wife,
after effecting his betrayal,
he believed he was launched on a career,
though he was undermining it in reality.
Galileo alone had risked asserting
the truth about our planet,
and this made him a great man... His was
a genuine career as I understand it.
I salute then a career,
when the career is akin to
that of a Shakespeare or Pasteur,
a Newton or Tolstoy- Leo!
Why did people fling mud at them all?
Talent speaks for itself, whatever the charges.
We've forgotten the men who abused them,
Remember only the victims of slander.
All who rushed into the stratosphere,
the doctors who perished fighting cholera,
were, all of them, men of career!
I take their careers as my example!
I believe in their sacred faith.
Their faith is my very manhood.
I shall therefore pursue my career
by trying not to pursue one.
Translated by George Reavey
Don't disappear. . . . By disappearing from me,
you will disappear from yourself,
betraying your own self forever,
and that will be the basest dishonesty.
Don't disappear. . . . To disappear is so easy.
It's impossible to resurrect one another.
Death drags down too deep.
Death even for a moment is too long.
Don't disappear. . . . Forget the third shadow.
In love there are only two. There are no thirds.
We both will be pure on Judgment Day,
when the trumpets call us to account.
Don't disappear. . . . We have redeemed sin.
We both are free of the law, we are sinless.
We are worthy together of the forgiveness of those
whom we have unintentionally wounded.
Don't disappear. . . . One can disappear in an instant,
but how could we meet later in the centuries ahead?
Is your double possible in the world,
and my double? Only barely in our children.
Don't disappear. . . . Give me your palm.
I am written on it--this I believe.
What makes one's last love terrible
is that it is not love, but fear of loss.
"I dreamed I already..."
Translated by James Dickey with Anthony Kahn (revised)
I dreamed I already loved you.
I dreamed I already killed you.
But you rose again; another form, but you,
a girl on the little ball of the earth,
naive simplicity, curve-necked
on that early canvas of Picasso,
and prayed to me with your ribs:
"Love me," as though you said, "Don't push me off."
I'm that played-out, grown-up acrobat,
hunchbacked with senseless muscles,
who knows that advice is a lie,
that sooner or later there's falling.
I'm too scared to say: "I love you,"
because I'd be saying: "I'll kill you."
For in the depths of a face I can see through
I see the faces--can't count them--
that, right on the spot, or maybe
not right away, I tortured to death.
You're pale from the mortal balance. You say:
"I know everything; I was all of them.
I know you've already loved me.
I know you've already killed me.
But I won't spin the globe backwards:
Love again, and then kill again."
Lord, you're young. Stop your globe.
I'm tired of killing. I'm not a damn thing but old.
Translated by Antonina W. Bouis, Albert C. Todd and