Purple Honey by Varlam Shalamov

From a frost-chilled

line of poetry

my anguish will drop

like a ripe berry.


Rosehip juice will dye

fine crystals of snow –

and a stranger will smile

on his lonely way.


Blending dirty sweat

with the purity of a tear,

he will carefully collect

the tinted crystals.


He sucks tart sweetness,

this purple honey,

and his dried mouth

twists in happiness.


by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов (Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)


translated by Robert Chandler