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

A Concrete Salesman Always Seals The Deal

Once there was a meeting of townsfolk people with many concerns. Each came to the meeting looking for answers but alas the town council had no answers. They too had given up hope unlike a bland looking man in a bland grey suit with bland well-worn grey shoes entered from the rear of the town hall. Oh what a marvel, oh what a wonder, he had an answer to all the town’s woes. And so began his pitch:

Ladies and gentlemen, fear not for I have the answer! Step right up and I will solve your issues with this wonder substance! I’ve heard it all before and I have the answer in this bucket of dust!

‘There’s a hole in my wall but I can’t afford to rebuild it’ – Why not seal it with cheap affordable concrete?
‘My garden is overgrown’ – Cover it over with concrete and you will have an all year round useable surface. Why not park your car on it?

‘I’ve lost my teeth’ – why not use concrete to grind down your food and drink the remains like a thick soup? (Do not take our product orally).

‘My dead pet, child, lover, mother and/or significant other smells’ – why not dig a hole in the ground and cover it in concrete? That will stop the smell and preserve your beloved for the ages.

‘I fear fire’ – why not create a fireproof yurt made from non-flammable concrete. Guaranteed to last for years to come rain or shine surviving multiple arson attempts!

‘I’m colour blind’ – No fear! Concrete is one colour fits all! And even if you have the colour perception of a dog you are seeing concrete at its full colour range like everyone else so no fear of embarrassment calling grey grey! Don’t like the all-natural colour? Then why not paint it any colour you like! The sky’s the limit!

‘My fruit floats on top of the water, I think it might have gone off’ – Well that can be solved by a few hours submerged in concrete. With a fine few inches of concrete applied to the exterior anything will sink to the bottom of the ocean… why even that guy across the road you don’t like who you know is a stool pigeon who ratted you out to the cops about your illegal gambling den in the garden shed! Got gambling debts? It’ll get rid of them too! (Not that we here representing the Concrete Union of Nationalised Tradesmen Society endorse such actions).

‘I’m cold’ – Another wonder cure through the application of concrete! Lo with just a jacket of concrete you will never have to worry about the temperature being too high or low every again during the rest of your life!

‘I’m tired’ – why not make yourself a fine heat retaining bench slab of concrete and lounge like a lizard taking in the sun. Don’t like the sun? Build a cover with our multipurpose product! It is just the versatile!

‘My car is constantly being stolen’ – Why not put the wheels in a protective casing of concrete! It’ll ensure no one will take you precious vehicle anywhere ever again! Put all your valuables in concrete! Hide them from prying eyes and ensure their safety! Security guaranteed!

‘I have no friends’ – Why not make one? Why just like the golem of Prague you too can make a lifelong friend with your own hands! Why it will be even longer lasting that that old clay golem! Fed up of life? Just pour it down your throat and immortalise yourself with the piece of artwork it produces mapping out the network of your digestive and respiratory system!
‘I’m lazy, I don’t want to be cleaning things constantly’ – Our product needs no upkeep! As soon as it’s in use it keeps on trucking by itself no hands on assistance or maintenance necessary!

Stops weeds, stops sunburn, preserves food hides unsightly blemishes and loved ones for a lifetime! It does it all ladies and gentlemen – Just add water! You can swim in it, sleep in it, Live in it, laugh in it, love in it – it is the miracle substance of our era!

Now whether you think the salesman made a killing or was run out of town is up to you… Personally I reckon he’s out there right now, laying down the same pitch, seeing what comes of it, like many an ornery wandering merchant selling his wares out there on the open roads and nothing going to stop him until it’s all gone. Last I heard of the troubled town it all got flattened to the ground, paved over and turned into an industrial park supplying construction tradesmen across the nation.


I do have reviews to post but it is just getting put off… so here is a filler vignette.

This was conceived and written in one sitting. It either sinks or swims as a story idea. As ever with these vignettes I don’t feel I should be polishing them if I am posting them and people can read them for free (or steal them). It was a nice idea though. Thanks for reading if you took the time.

Comment, like, follow – all are welcome!