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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)
The Sycamore Elegy
To Ivan Zhdanov
The tree, Vanya, that very tree, that sycamore
on an old etching in a book, on the porous cotton-bond paper –
do you recognize it?
Its leaves still sparkle, the branches swallow the height,
but time is up. Wrath has ripened. The word is already in my throat.

*

“Wretched,” I say to myself, “you’ve earned what’s coming to you.
You didn’t take oil with you, you didn’t invest your mind with patience,
and you’ll set off without a torch – you should be ashamed! –

*

to the One who announced about neither a day nor an hour
but about the fact that the sky needed loyalty,
the way a lamp needs oil,
the way thirst needs fruit.
The rest steals in like a thief.”

*

You won’t enter the house of that wedding on the Wednesday of
jubilation.
And, fainting from the foreboding prophecy, you won’t pour
the rich aroma for which you have given

*

everything you had possessed.
You won’t accompany him to the torments,
feeling that a son prefers a father’s respect more
than all hopes and assistance.
And when death has come
not from inside but asking for a command:
It is open,
come in!
And everything that had been ridiculed, debased, and battered before,
that will be left for strangers like a tunic that has not been sewn.

*

And You, mad woman, chose to live. – It’s true, anyone chooses
to live and to watch endlessly as spring comes, birds play,
hatch nestlings, wheat shines gold, the stony Kidron roars…

*

“I asked you, do you remember,” He used to say–
what I’ll give is a different matter, it’s none of your business?
I’m sick – who’d visit me?
I’m thirsty – where’s the cup?
Foxes tend lairs and birds – their nests. I knock – where’s my home?”

*

…With fire
or without it, going off into the distance, a maiden Holy Fool can no
longer be seen in the darkness1.
I see inside in the darkness, a tree killed by miraculous wrath,
but I do not see one who would say to it: “It serves you right!”

*

and one who would run out like a madman
from drawn-out fruitless hope, from faithless wearisome labor
out of a life of freedom!
no matter where
before the stave strikes the ground with the words: Where to!

*

What should we do, my friend, what to do, brother, which
oblivion will come? Or, like a fakir,
from beneath its tattered cape will it pull out a flock of birds, an emerald,
a golden cloth?
O, all these things are better inside where there are none of them,
When they aren’t expected, they are better than peace.

*

One who asks – at some point will receive it.
One who asks for forgiveness –
at some point will be forgiven. One who cannot lift his face in shame
is loved more than others. His heart will be embraced by his loss,
the way a bridegroom or a father is hugged after long separation.

Slava I. Yastremski and Michel Naydan

1 Holy Fool: weak-minded people were considered to be prophets in Medieval Russia. Since they “did not have mind of their own”, whatever they said was perceived as the word of God.
Autumn Water’s Elegy
 The Sycamore Elegy
Earth
The Beginning
Music
In Memory of a Poet
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