Translated after Boris Pasternak by Elena Fattakova and William Benton Pines Autumn Frost Wind Hops Silence Explanation Singular days Rendezvous Winter night Improvisation Muchkop Hamlet False alarm No name


In the grass, among wild balsam,
lilies and chamomile,
we lie on our hands,
our faces in the sky.

The grass on the footpath
grows dense, impenetrable.
We exchange a glance, shift
and resettle our bodies.

And now, immortal for a moment,
we’re at one with the pines;
and from sickness, epidemics,
and death, set free.

In its usual routine
a balm of dense blueness
lies sunbeams down
staining our sleeves.

We share the leisure of redwoods
with the industries of ants,
piney, soporific elixir
of lemon and laudanum, breathing.

So ardent against the blue,
the fiery trunks soar,
and for a long time we don’t remove our hands
from beneath our heads.

And so wide our view,
so obedient all within,
that somehow beyond the trunks,
the sea is always there.

Taller than these branches,
waves tumble down
with a hailstorm of shrimps
dredged up from the ocean floor.

At evening, dusk lingers
on the corks of a trawler,
shimmering with fish shine
and the hazy smoke of amber.

It gets darker and slowly
the moon hides her track
beneath the foam’s white
magic and the water’s black.

The waves grow higher, louder,
and on the dock a crowd
stands around a kiosk poster,
indistinguishable at this distance.

I let the family disperse;
those close to me were long ago scattered,
and the endless loneliness
fills everything, heart and nature.

I’m here with you in the cabin,
the forest deserted, empty
as a song – the needle’s groove
a path half-overgrown.

Now, the two of us are alone,
the log walls stare at us.
We never promised to take the barricades,
we will perish sincerely.

Sit down at one, get up at three;
I have a book, you embroidery.
At down we won’t notice
that we no longer kiss.

More magnificent, more reckless,
leaves, make a racket, clatter down,
until yesterday’s cup of bitterness
overflows with the sadness of today.

Attachment, attraction, charm!
Dissolve in September clamor!
Cover up under autumn rustle!
Freeze or go crazy!

You discard your dress
like a grove sheds leaves.
In a bathrobe with silk tassels
you sink into an embrace.

You are the grace in the disastrous step,
when living is more tedious than illness.
The root of beauty is courage –
that is what draws us together.

Muffled time of leaf fall,
the last vees of geese;
don’t get upset – all
fear has wide eyes.

Let the wind that lulls the ash
scare her before she sleeps.
Creation is deceptive,
like the ending of a fairy tale.

Tomorrow you will wake,
walk out onto the winter sheen
behind the water tower
and stand rooted in the scene.

Again those white flies,
rooftops and Christmas rooms,
chimneys and the lop-eared woods
dressed in Joker’s costumes.

At once, everything whitens,
in a papakha up to the brows.
A stealthy wolverine
peeks through the boughs.

Uncertain, you cross the yard,
the path leading down a gully
to a gingerbread house of frost,
its doors and windows barred.

Inside, behind the snow’s
thick curtain, on the wall of
a kind of cabin, a road goes
past a clearing, to a new grove.

Soundless celebration
set in fretwork
like four stanzas on the tomb
of Sleeping Beauty,

the white kingdom of the dead
sends you into mental shivers.
Silently, I whisper, be glad
you can give more that is demanded.

I’m finished, but you’re alive,
and the crying, complaining wind
rocks the forest and the dacha.
Not each pine separately
but all the trees together
at an infinite distance,
like the hull of a sailboat
on the shiny surface of a bay.
This isn’t due to daring
or from aimless rage
but in sadness, to find for you
the words of a lullaby.

Beneath the ivy-entwined willow
we found shelter from the wet weather,
our shoulders huddled under a raincoat,
my arms wrapped around her.

I was wrong; it wasn't ivy, intertwined 
in that thicket of willow branches.
We took the raincoat, softly lined, 
and spread it out wide beneath us.

Sunlight penetrates the green dark.
Rays stand like pillars of dust.
They say elk form the forest
appear here, where the roads fork.

Muteness, silence, as if
in a mute hollow, life
is mesmerized not by the sun
but for a different reason.

And truly, not far away stands
a doe elk in a thicket,
the surrounding trees entranced.
That’s why the forest is so quiet.

The elk gnaws at dead bark,
munching among the young plants.
Acorns brush against her back,
from a branch’s eminence.

Cow weed, St.John’s wort, chamomile,
rose bay, and thistle,
entangled in sorcery, gaze from under
a bush in wide-eyes wonder.

Throughout the forest, a single stream
fills the ravine with euphony,
repeating quietly the theme
of this incredible event, then loudly,

ringing over the forest carrion,
proclaiming a clearing.
He wants to tell us
Something almost human.

Without reason, strangely interrupted,
life returns to an earlier time.
I’m on the street I was on then,
the same summer day and hour.

Same people, same vanities,
the fire of sunset hasn’t cooled down;
like then, to the wall of the Manege
evening’s death is hastily pinned.

Women in work clothes and clogs
clatter in the night again,
crucified like before,
in attics with roofs of tin.

Here, one with a tired walk,
climbing up from the half-basement,
emerges slowly onto the threshold,
and crosses the yard at the angle.

Again, I prepare excuses,
again in an indifferent tone,
and the woman next door goes
through the alley, leaving us alone.

          ~ * ~

Don’t cry, don’t purse your swollen lips
and scrunch then into wrinkles,
don’t reopen the dried-up
scabs of a febrile spring.

Move your hand away from my chest,
we are bare wires.
Any moment could throw up
into each other again.

Years will pass, you’ll marry
and forget this disarray.
To be a woman is a great step,
to drive men crazy – heroic.

Before the miracle of woman’s hands,
back, shoulders, neck,
I am, with a servant’s devotion,
a whole age of reverence.

But however much night
with its sad chain binds me,
stronger in the world remains
the passion to break free.
Singular days

From many winters
I remember the solstice;
days, each unrepeatable,
repeated again – countless.

The whole sequence
accrued little by little,
singular days when to us
time, it seemed, stood still.

I remember them all so
well.  Winter at mid-point,
the sun basking on the ice-flow,
roofs dripping, the roads wet.

Lovers reach toward each
other, as in a dream.
High in the tops of trees
the starlings’ houses steam.

Arms too lazy to turn,
half-asleep on the clock face,
the day outlasts the millennium
in one endless embrace.

The roads are covered with snow,
pitches of roofs piled high.
To stretch my legs I go
out the door you’re standing by.

In a fall coat, alone,
without galoshes or hat,
you struggle with emotion,
pondering the wet

snow.  Into mist, all
the fences and trees disappear.
You stand in snowfall
alone on the corner.

Water runs from the scarf
down your sleeve where,
like dew, it soaks the cuff.
It glistens in your hair.

The blonde hair
illuminates with one lock:
the face, scarf, figure,
and the shabby frock.

Your look is
all of a piece – snow
on your eyelashes,
in your eyes, sorrow.

The image of your life
is drawn with the art
of an invisible knife
upon my heart.

The humility of your features
lodged forever in it.
That’s why the indifference
of the world’s irrelevant.

And that’s why, in the wide
night, I can’t discover
the boundaries that divide
us from each other.

And who are we,
in afteryears, and from where,
if rumors remain,
but we’re not there.
Winter night

Whirled, whirled the world over,
to earth’s end.
The candle burned on the table,
the candle burned.

Like summer insects
into the flame
the swirling snowflakes
swarmed the window frame.

On the glass the storm scribbled
arrows and circles.
The candle burned on the table,
the candle burned.

And on the ceiling,
shadows lay,
intersection of hands, of legs,
of destiny.

Two slippers drop
to the floor – bang, plop.
Hot wax tears
spill onto a dress.

Everything’s lost in a snow maze
of whites and grays.
The candle burned on the table,
the candle burned,

and wavered in a draft
(heat of temptation), roused
like angels’ wings that waft
upward – crossed.

The whole month of February it snowed.
 And all the while,
the candle burned on the table,
the candle burned.

I fed them with a key from my hand –
wings flapping, a splashing, screeching band.
I flexed my hands, stood on one toe,
Sleeves rolled up, night nudging my elbow.

And it was dark.  And it was a pond.
And waves.   And the species of which I’m fond
seemed sooner to kill than let die
the black beaks’ penetrating cry.

And it was a pond.  And was dark.
The torch of a water lily blazed yellow.
A wave gnawed at the arc
of a boat’s bottom.  Birds bickered at my elbow.

Rinsed in the mouth of the millpond:  the night sky.
It seemed that if a single nestling went unfed
the bitches sooner would kill than let die –
in the distorted throat – the loud roulade.

Soul-stifled, the distance, tabac
colored like – sort of – thoughts.
The mills have a fishing village look:
gray fishnets and corvettes.

Mills numb in the village,
sails in still air,
everything is filled with fierce anguish,
impatience, despair.

Here an hour moves like stone.
The bay ricochets off the shoal.
Alas, it doesn’t sink, no, it’s still
there, thought-like, brown.

Will I see her again?  Certainly.
An hour till the train –
an hour embraced with apathy,
pitch-dark, imperiled, marine.

The roar dies.  I walk on stage.
Leaning against a doorframe,
I catch in the echoing age
what will happen in my time.

In the dark the target
of a thousand binoculars is me.
Abba, Father, remove this goblet –
if only that could be.

I love your obstinate design and
am prepared to play the part.
But the current drama isn’t mine;
this once, let me bow out.

But the order of the acts is known,
the journey’s end is sealed.
Everything drowns in pharisaism – I’m alone.
To live life is not to cross a field.
False alarm

Troughs and tubs,
morning nonsense,
rainy sunsets,
damp evenings,

tears swallowed
in dark sighs,
the summons of a steamship
sixteen versts away.

Early dusk
and broken things
in the garden –

At noon autumn expands
into a wail of anguish
from the churchyard
across the river.

When the sobs of a widow
carry beyond the mound,
I see death’s straight stare,
and am with her in one blood.

From the front window
every year, I see
the delayed coming
of the final season.

Clearing a way
down through the yellow
horror of leaves,
winter stares at my life.
No name

Touch-me-not, coldly demur,
now you’re all fire, all aflame.
Let me lock your beauty
in the dark tower of a poem.

Look how the fiery peel
of the lampshade transforms
the corner of the wall, the window sill,
our shadows and our frames.

You sit cross-legged, alone
on an ottoman.  In the light,
in the dark, either one,
going on in your childish spite.

Abstracted, you string beads
That scatter onto your dress.
You are much too sad,
your conversation is ingenuous.

The word “love” is banal –
you’re right.  For you, I’ll find a new
name for it.  I’ll change it all,
the words, the world, too.

How can your disturbed glance impart
the ore deposit of the feelings you had,
secretly glowing in layers of your heart?
Why do you look so sad?