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From the book Kliazma and Yauza
From the book The Wild Rose
From the book Tristan and Isolde
From the book Old Songs
From the book Gates. Windows. Arches
From the book Stanzas in the Manner of Alexander Pope
From the book Stellae and Inscriptions
From the book The Iambic Verses
The Chinese Travelogue
From An Unfinished Book
From the book The Evening Song
From the book Elegies  
From the book The Beginning of a Book
From the book Elegies
(1987-2004)
Autumn Water’s Elegy
To the Memory of Sergei Morozov and Leonid Gubanov
1.

Intimacies turn to formal YOUs and YOUs to THEY.
For how long must we stand and watch them end
in self-annihilation while autumn’s eerie hiss
shears off the days?

2.

Old age and winter stare me in the face and it’s with
inhuman boldness in their eyes they stare at me, old age
and winter,
measuring what treasures may remain, pyxing
and assaying with the lupine teeth of decimating grief.

3.

Arise, my soul, arise (to paraphrase the saint).
But whether itʼs too late or not,
we cannot say, though others might.
Warm is the air which age and winter print
white words on,
sightless wicks that burn

4.

in darkness visible. Coming tracks impressed
in snow thatʼs not yet fallen. Sergei, Leonid,
the slant earth gasped
(remember?) to see those waters lit below
on winter’s edge, a flambeau.

5.

With staff in hand I walk familiar waves
of ever unreaped corn and through typhoons of
earthen seas, those watery strings,
which cause the hills of mud to ripple,

6.

echoing on high the sourcesʼs sound like... yes,
like tiny hammers on a gamelan,
like comb and paper in the flowing water’s mouth
winding their courses towards us out of silence.

7.

Water gazes down
from the soundless core of the pallid watchfireʼs
rustling humstrum. Bending she comes down
and turns to me
and asks:
“What is humbler than water?”

8.

What is humbler than water?
Than patience more patient; like the name Anna,
grace abounding, giving from poverty, turning out
pockets
at the merest prompting of the inconstant ground.

9.

All things open like a door,
each has a secret doorway
to a deep transcendent passage. Try the latch;
in bolts the grateful heart, to home and silence.
Right now

10.

I think that nothing leads straighter there
through wildered gardens, flowers of the field and flowers
of the forest – all long desicated – via somnolence,
than water on her sleepless rounds,

11.

before ice closes in and sleep begins,
and she becomes as eyelids or the faithful skin
of one tight-clasped whose dreaming self’s
a distant two-in-one.
Things in paradise, are you
like love or it like you?

12.

A person with the skill to die
when living means approaching death:
such is the poet. Let the rest fool whom they can
and etch their letterʼs back
with senderʼs address.

13.

It costs us no great toil, my Muse,
to master sensual inquisitiveness,
outstaring, empty-eyed, the monstrous horse
that hews the flaming waters from

14.

the treeless, beastless, birdless rock.
Where dwell only you, thin shadows.
And you who like a fair child pluck the bents
of grasses,
blessed,
parched
and bleakish.

15.

Such is the sound when winter looks
and old age watches and the skies survey.
Such is the scream of pinions over nightmare governments
cowardly as death,
bearing you aloft with fiery trail,
our only goddess, Muse of Victory.

Robert Reid


***

The Elegy of Autumn Water

1.

The singular you becomes plural you,
all of you,
them
.
For how much longer are we to stand over their demise,
their suicides listening, as autumn’s days grow shorter
with a prophetic rustle?

2.

Winter and old age look right into my face. The winter and old age look
with bold unhuman eyes:
they have to probe what’s left there
by biting it with the teeth of a wolf, with the teeth of ruinous longing.

3.

Rise, my soul, stand up, as St. Andrew of Crete says1. Whether it’s too late
or not, it’s not up to us to say, let it be heard in the speech of others.
The winter and old age write a white word
in the still warm air: the flame of invisible candles

4.

is in the still visible darkness, the future footprints
in the snow, which is still too far away. Dear Seryozha, dear Lyonya,
do you remember how the earth used to gasp on a slope
noticing
the glow of the approaching winter water below?

5.

I walk with my old staff all over the same
fields, unharvested as usual, the typhoons
of the earth’s sea, weak strings of water
from which hills rolled out, repeating

6.

the sound of a spring in the height, they look like… well,
like tiny oriental drums
or maybe jaws harps by the mouth of the flowing
water, emerging from silence to right here?

7.

From the fire of silence in the pale fire
of the rustling, the strumming, the partly singing water looks downward,
stoops as it goes down.
Turning to me,
someone says:
Is there anything more peaceful than water?

8.

What is more peaceful than water? It
is more patient than patience itself, it’s like the name Anna,
it’s like a pauper offering grace, turning
all his pockets inside out before any desire of the bottom.

9.

You can open any single thing like a door.
There is
a secret door into the transcelestial, underground passageway in each of
them.
Having found it alter groping around, the grateful heart
will run in – and will become silent in its homeland.
It seems

10.

to me now
that nothing leads there quicker
than this never-sleeping, this sleep-avoiding water that runs past these
empty
gardens, these meadow and forest plants that
no longer drink it

11.

before becoming ice, becoming just a dream.
becoming like eyelids, becoming like the trusty old skin
of one who falls asleep when she’s caressed, who sees herself with another
further in sleep…
Things, in your own garden,
you look like love–or perhaps, it’s love that looks like you?

12.

A poet is one who can die
where to live means reaching death.
The rest may try to fool whomever they may find.
They can write
their return address on an empty envelope.
To overcome

13.

eternal curiosity and lust – are we up to this task?
The Muse looking with the extinct eyes
of a monstrous steed that stroked the water fire
out of a cliff on which neither

14.

trees or beasts or birds live. Just you,
sheer shadows. And you are like a child with fair hair
gathering blades of blanched
sacred
dry
grass.

15.

With the same sound. Old Age, Winter, and the Firmament gaze.
With the same swish, wings carry, following
fresh footprints above countries that stretch long like a dream and are
cowardly like death,
our goddess –
the Victorious Muse.

Slava I. Yastremski and Michel Naydan

1 St. Andrew of Crete (c. 660-740) is most famous as an author of the “Great Canon”, which is used by the Orthodox Church during Lent. He was a monk at Mar Saba and later became a deacon at Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. He ended his days as Archbishop on the island of Crete.
 Autumn Water’s Elegy
The Sycamore Elegy
Earth
The Beginning
Music
In Memory of a Poet
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