Then there is the clock's
commentary, the continuing
prose that is the under-current
of all poetry. We listen
to it as, on a desert island,
men do to the subdued
music of their blood in a shell.
Then take my hand that is
of the bone the island
is made of, and looking at
me say what time it is
on love's face, for we have
no business here other than
to disprove certainties the clock knows.
by R. S. Thomas
from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)
Oh, to hell with this storm, damn this snow and hail –
pounding on the rooftop, driving in white nails!
But me – I’m not frightened, and I know my fate:
my wastrel heart has nailed me to you – nailed us tight!
by Сергей Александрович Есенин (Sergei Alexandrovich Yesenin)
a.k.a. Sergey Yesenin / Esenin
translated by Boris Dralyuk
With her fingers she turns paint
into flowers, with her body
flowers into a rememberance
of herself. She is at work
always, mending the garment
of our marriage, foraging
like a bird for something
for us to eat. If there are thorns
in my life, it is she who
will press her breast to them and sing.
Her words, when she would scold,
are too sharp. She is busy
after for hours rubbing smiles
into the wounds. I saw her,
when young, and spread the panoply
of my feathers instinctively
to engage her. She was not deceived,
but accepted me as a girl
will under a thin moon
in love’s absence as someone
she could build a home with
for her imagined child.
by R. S. Thomas
from The Way of It (1977)
I look out the window at the retreating back.
Your jealousy is both touching and comical.
Can’t you see I am old and scary, a witch,
and apart from you no one needs me at all!
Well, what’s so touching and funny in that?
Jealous, you’re keen to send all of them packing
away from our home, with it’s roof’s mossy coat,
and our life which consists entirely of sacking.
But they do not desist, out of kindness of sorts –
from scraping away the moss, checking a rafter,
and they bring flowers as well, to thank me
for your still being alive and so well looked after.
And they stay away with something else, a notion
of how to survive as the years advance
and still be loved, and, with time running out,
to listen to eulogies, fresher than the news.
And my attachment, the truth of my love, no less,
they envy. So keep your jealousy buttoned up!
In this world, with its surfeit of painful loss,
let me open the door with a smile on my lips.
by Инна Львовна Лиснянская (Inna Lvovna Lisnyanskaya)
translated by Daniel Weissbort
She was the wife of Semyon Lipkin. The above poem was written shortly before his death.
There isn’t much about her in English so if you want to know more you may have to research her husband intially and work from there for biographical details. However one collection of her poetic works titled ‘Far from Sodom‘ is available in English should you wish to read more of her writing.
She was born in Baku and published her first collection in 1957 then moved to Moscow three years later. In 1979 she and her husband resigned from the Union of Soviet Writers in protest to the expulsion of Viktor Yerofeyev and Yevgeny Popov from it. The following seven years her works were only published abroad though from 1986 she was able to publish regularly and was awarded several important prizes.
Freshness of words, simplicity of emotions,
If we lost these, would it not be as though
Blindness had stricken Fra Angelico,
Or an actor lost his power of voice and motion?
But don’t behave as if you own
What has been given you by the Saviour:
We ourselves know, we are condemned to squander
Our wealth, and not to save. Alone
Go out and heal the cataract,
And later, witness your own disciples’
Malice and jeers, and see the people’s
Stolid indifference to the act.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1915)
– from Белая стая (White Flock, 1917) translation by D. M. Thomas