They came over the snow to the bread's
pure snow, fumbled it in their huge
hands, put their lips to it
like beasts, stared into the dark chalice
where the wine shone, felt it sharp
on their tongue, shivered as at a sin
remembered, and heard love cry
momentarily in their hearts' manager.
They rose and went back to their poor
holdings, naked in the bleak light
of December. Their horizon contracted
to the one small, stone-riddled field
with its tree, where the weather was nailing
the appalled body that had not asked to be born.
by R. S. Thomas
from Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)
Memory has veiled
her long lies leave nothing
There may be no cities
or green gardens;
only fields of ice
and salty oceans.
The world may be pure snow,
a starry road;
just northern forest
in the mind of God.
by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов (Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)
translated by Robert Chandler