You're not alone. You haven't died,
while you still,beggar-woman at your side,
take pleasure in the grandeur of the plain,
the gloom, the cold,the whirlwinds of snow.
In sumptuous penury, in mighty poverty
live comforted and at rest -
your days and nights are blest,
your sweet-voiced labour without sin.
Unhappy he, a shadow of himself,
whom a bark astounds and the wind mows down,
and to be pitied he, more dead than alive,
who begs handouts from a ghost.
by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam.)
His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
translated by Andrew Davis
It was a day like any other.
A woman friend of mine called round.
Without a tear she told me she’d
just buried her one true friend.
We sat in silence till the morning.
What words were there to say to her?
I’m a Leningrad widow too.
by Ольга Фёдоровна Берггольц (Olga Fyodorovna Berggolts)
a.k.a. Olga Fyodorovna Bergholz
translated by Robert Chandler
A Soviet poet, writer, playwright and journalist. She is most famous for her work on the Leningrad radio during the city’s blockade, when she became the symbol of city’s strength and determination.
Fun extra: Here is a recital of the entire poem in the original Russian:
Yesterday, the children made the street
into a stadium; their cat
a docile audience. As they cheered
a score it seemed there was a camera
in the sky to record their elation.
Men polished cars, like soldiers
getting ready for an inspection.
Women, of course, were banished
from daylight: the smells of roasts merging
like the car-wash channels joining.
Today, two horses trespass over boundaries
of content; barebacked, as if they’d just
thrown off the saddle of some film.
They hoof up lawns – brown patches like tea-stains.
A woman in an apron tries to sweep away
the stallion, his penis wagging back at her broom.
I swop smiles with an Indian woman, door to door.
These neighbours bring us out from our burrows –
the stampede of light watering our eyes.
By Mike Jenkins
from Empire of Smoke
Not that he brought flowers
Except for the eyes’ blue,
Perishable ones, or that his hands,
Famed for kindness were put then
To such usage; but rather that, going
Through flowers later, she yet could feel
These he spared perhaps for my sake.
by R. S. Thomas
from Not That He Brought Flowers (1968)