Верю (I Believe) by Varlam Shalamov

Off once more to the post:
will I find your letter?
My mind races all night
and daytime’s no better.

I believe, I believe in omens,
in dreams and spiders.
I have confidence in skis,
in slim boats on rivers.

I have faith in diesel engines,
in their roars and growls,
in the wings of carrier pigeons
in tall ships with white sails.

I place my trust in steamers
and in the strength of trains;
I have even dreamed of
the right weather for planes.

I believe in reindeer sledges,
in the worth of a compass
and a frost-stiffened map
when there is no path;

in teams of huskies,
in daredevil coachmen,
in tortoise indolence
and the snail’s composure.

I believe in the powers
of that wish-granting pike
in my thinning blood…
I believe in my own endurance;
and in your love.

.

by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов
Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)
(1952)
translated by Robert Chandler

Beneath is the original version in Cyrillic.

Верю

Сотый раз иду на почту
За твоим письмом.
Мне теперь не спится ночью,
Не живется днем.

Верю, верю всем приметам,
Снам и паукам.
Верю лыжам, верю летом
Узким челнокам.

Верю в рев автомобилей,
Бурных дизелей,
В голубей почтовых крылья,
В мачты кораблей.

Верю в трубы пароходов,
Верю в поезда.
Даже в летную погоду
Верю иногда.

Верю я в оленьи нарты,
В путевой компас
У заиндевевшей карты
В безысходный час.

В ямщиков лихих кибиток,
В ездовых собак…
Хладнокровию улиток,
Лени черепах…

Верю щучьему веленью,
Стынущей крови…
Верю своему терпенью
И твоей любви.

Additional information: The reference to a ‘wish-granting pike’ to the Russian folk tale ‘Yemelya the Fool‘ in which the lazy protagonist saves the life of a fish which grants his wishes.

Shalamov notes the poem was “…written in 1952 in Baragon, near Oymyakon airport and Tomtor post office. About this time I wrote another great poem ‘Tomtor’s Mail’ – a ‘paired’ poem for ‘The Hundredth Time’.”

Questions to the Prophet by R. S. Thomas

How will the lion remain a lion

if it eat straw like the ox?

 

Where will the little child lead them

who has not been there before?

 

With our right hand off, with what

shall we beg forgiveness in the kingdom?

 

How shall the hare know it has not won,

dying before the tortoise arrive?

 

Did Christ crying ‘Neither do I condemn thee’,

condemn the prostitute to be good for nothing?

 

If he who increases riches increases sorrow

why are his tears more like pearls than the swine’s tusks?

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Mass for Hard Times (1992)