Here I think of the centuries,
six million of them, they say.
Yesterday a fine rain fell;
today the warmth has brought out the crowds.
After Christ, what? The molecules
are without redemption. My shadow
sunning itself on this stone
remembers the lava. Zeus looked down
on a brave world, but there was
no love there; the architecture
of their temples was less permanent
than these waves. Plato, Aristotle,
all those who furrow the calmness
of their foreheads are responsible
for the bomb. I am charmed here
by the serenity of the reflections
in the sea's mirror. It is a window
as well. What I need
now is a faith to enable me to out-stare
the grinning faces of the inmates of its asylum,
the failed experiments God put away.
by R. S. Thomas
from Frequencies (1978)
Miss, I saw you yesterday
first in clothing, then without.
The sensation was, no doubt,
greater than I can convey.
by Николай Макарович Олейников (Nikolay Makarovich Oleynikov)
a.k.a. Nikolai Makarovich Oleinikov
translated by Eugene Ostashevsky
Nikolay Makarovich Oleynikov ( Никола́й Мака́рович Оле́йников; born 5 August 1898, d. 24 November 1937) was a Russian editor, avant-garde poet and playwright who was arrested and executed by the Soviets for subversive writing. During his writing career, he also used the pen names Makar Svirepy, Nikolai Makarov, Sergey Kravtsov, NI chief engineer of the mausoleums, Kamensky and Peter Shortsighted.
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
The unrepeatable voice won’t speak again,
Died yesterday and quit us, the talker with groves.
Or into gentlest rain of which he sang.
And all the flowers that grew only in this world
Came into bloom to meet his death.
And straightway it’s grown quiet on the planet
That bears a name so modest… Earth.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)
translation by D. M. Thomas
Fun fact: The poem refers to the death of Boris Pasternak (29 January 1890 – 30 May 1960).
Mist climbs from the lake.
Fields bare after harvest.
Beyond blue hills
the sun rolls to its rest.
Splintered, deep in ruts,
the weary road thinks
it cannot be long now
till grey-haired winter.
In the misty, resonant grove
I watched yesterday
as a bay moon, like a foal,
harnessed herself to our sleigh.
by Сергей Александрович Есенин (Sergei Alexandrovich Yesenin) a.k.a. Sergey Yesenin / Esenin
translated by Robert Chandler
To live in the moment’s a well-worn routine
that most of the world has perfected;
for some, it’s the moment that’s already been,
for others, the one that’s expected.
Yet no sort of magic can kindle anew
a past that is over forever,
nor summon the future before it is due:
our moment is now – or it’s never.
So brief is the moment in which we may live,
and future or past it isn’t.
Whoever would know of what life hast to give
must gratefully welcome the present.
by Piet Hein a.k.a Kumbel (1905-1996), Denmark