and one said
speak to us of love
and the preacher opened
his mouth and the word God
fell out so they tried
again speak to us
of God then but the preacher
was silent reaching
his arms out but the little
children the ones with
big bellies and bow
legs that were like
a razor shell
were too weak to come
by R. S. Thomas
from H’m (1972)
Words lying empty, without breathing –
that don’t know why they exist at all.
Words with no goal, words with no meaning,
that shelter no one from the cold
and haven’t fed a single soul.
Words of impotence – of the weak!
Words that don’t dare, too shy to speak.
They give no heat, they shed no light,
but, with an orphan’s grief, go mute,
not knowing they are mutilated.
by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)
translated by Boris Dralyuk
Snow keeps falling night and day –
some god, now turned more strict,
is sweeping out from his domain
scraps of his old manuscripts.
Sheaves of ballads, songs and odes,
all that now seems bland or weak –
he sweeps it down from his high clouds,
caught up now by newer work.
by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов (Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)
(1950 – or at least the incident which inspired the poem occurred then)
translated by Robert Chandler