March Saw Winter Gain In Strength by Maria Petrovykh

March saw winter gain in strength –

bitter cold and unrelenting storms.

In reckless fury, blinding spite,

the wind blew only from the north.

 

No hint of spring. Gripped by inertia,

the heart slips all too close to places

of no return: no self, no words,

mere apathy and voicelessness.

 

Who can bring back our sight, our hearing?

Who can retrace the way to hearth

and home now that all trace of home

is gone, wiped from the earth?

 

by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)

(1955)

translated by Robert Chandler and Irina Mashinski


 

the final line could be considered a sceptical response to Khrushchev’s Thaw during the, relatively, liberal period after Stalin’s death.

Also it is quite timely considering the current UK weather where ‘the Beast for the East’ and Storm Emma are double teaming the British Isles.

January by R. S. Thomas

The fox drags its wounded belly

Over the snow, the crimson seeds

Of blood burst with a mild explosion,

Soft as excrement, bold as roses.

 

Over the snow that feels no pity,

Whose white hands can give no healing,

The fox drags its wounded belly.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Song At The Year’s Turning (1955)

I Was Washing At Night Out In The Yard by Osip Mandelstam

I was washing at night out in the yard,

the heavens glowing with rough stars,

a star-beam like salt upon an axe,

the water butt cold and brim full.

 

A padlock makes the gate secure,

and conscience gives sternness to the earth –

hard to find a standard anywhere

purer than the truth of new-made cloth.

 

A star melts in the water butt like salt,

cold water in the butt is blacker still,

death is more pure, disaster saltier

and earth more truthful and more terrible.

 

by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)

(Tbilisi, 1921)

translated by Peter France


 

A poem written in respone to the news of Nikolay Gumilyov‘s execution.

September Rose by Afansy Fet

Her flushed lips parting tenderly

as she breathes in the morning frost,

how strangely this rose smiles

as the September day hurries past.

 

While blue tits flutter around branches

from which every leaf has now slipped,

how queenlike this rose now appears

with spring’s glow on her lips.

 

How boldly she clings to her hope

that, flying from this cold flower-bed,

she will be the last, intoxicated rose

to cling to the young mistress’s breast.

 

by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet)

a.k.a. Шеншин (Shenshin)

(1890)

translated by Robert Chandler

Song Of The Last Meeting by Anna Akhmatova

My breast grew cold and numb,

But my feet were light.

On to my right hand I fumbled

The glove to my left hand.

 

It seemed that there were many steps

-I knew there were only three.

An autumn whisper between the maples

Kept urging: ‘Die with me.

 

Change has made me weary,

Fate has cheated me of everything.’

I answered: ‘My dear, my dear!

I’ll die with you. I too am suffering.’

 

It was a song of the last meeting.

Only bedroom-candles burnt

When I looked into the dark house,

And they were yellow and indifferent.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

Not Waving But Drowning by Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.

 

Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

 

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.

 

by Stevie Smith (1903 – 1971)

The Sick Young Dragon by Derek Stuart

‘What can I do?’ young dragon cried.

‘Although I’ve simply tried and tried,

It doesn’t matter how hard I blow,

I can not get my fire to go!’

‘Open your mouth!’ his mother said.

‘It’s no wonder!’ Your throat’s not red.

Your scales are cold. You must be ill.

I think you must have caught a chill.’

The doctor came. He looked and said,

‘You’ll need a day or two in bed.

Your temperature’s down. No doubt,

That’s the reason your fire’s gone out.

Just drink this petrol. Chew these nails.

They’ll help you to warm up your scales.

Just take it easy. Watch TV

You’ll soon be right as rain, you’ll see.’

Young dragon did as he was told

And soon his scales stopped feeling cold.

Hee sneezed some sparks. His face glowed bright.

He coughed and set the sheets alight.

‘Oh dear!’ he cried. ‘I’ve burnt the bed!’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ his mother said.

‘Those sheets were old. Go out and play.

Just watch where you breathe fire today!’

by Derek Stuart