Marina Tsvetaeva
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Marina Tsvetaeva 317  Marina Tsvetaeva (1892–1941) Poem of the End Prague, February 1—Illovishchi, June 8, 1924 1 In the sky, rustier than tin, A finger, a pole. Risen in our appointed place, Like fate. —Quarter to. Right? —Death wouldn’t have waited. Smooth. Exaggerated. He tosses his hat. In every eyelash—challenge. His mouth—clenched. Low. Exaggerated. He bows to me. —Quarter to. Sharp? His voice rings false. My heart sinks: what’s wrong? Brain speaks: watch out! Sky of ugly portents: Rust and tin. He’s waited at our usual place. It’s six. Our kiss is soundless: Stuporous lips. As one might kiss the hand Of a queen or corpse . . . 318 Russian Some hurrying idiot Shoves an elbow—into my side. Boring. Exaggerated. Some siren begins to wail. And wails,—like a howling dog, Long-drawn, raging. (The exaggeration of life At the point of death.) What yesterday rose to my waist Is risen—beyond the stars. (Is exaggerated, that is: At flood-stage.) To myself: darling, darling. —What time is it? Past six. To the cinema, or? . . . — His explosion: Home! 2 Wandering tribe,— See where this brought us! Thunder over our heads, A drawn sword, All the ghastly Words, lying in ambush, Like a house collapsing— One word: Home. Wail of a lost, spoilt Child: home! A one-year-old’s grunting: Give me and mine! Marina Tsvetaeva 319  My friend in dissipation, My chill and fever, Much as others long to stray, You want to go there! Like a horse, jerking its tether— Up!—so the rope breaks. —There’s no house, is there?! —There is,—ten steps more: A house on the hill.—Any higher? —A house on top of the hill. A window set under the eaves. —“Lit, and not by a single morning’s Sun?” Then, back to life, again? —That would be the simplicity of poetry! House, that means: out-of-the-house Into the night. (O, to whom shall I breathe My sorrow, my misfortune, My terror, greener than ice? . . . ) —You’ve thought too much.— A thoughtful reply:—Yes. 3 Then—the embankment. I follow The water’s edge, as if it were solid and thick. Semiramis’ hanging gardens— So this—is where you are! The water’s—a steely strip, The color of a corpse— Which I follow, as a singer Follows her sheet music, as one blind 320 Russian Follows the edge of a wall—Come back!? No? If I crouch—will you listen? To the quencher of all thirsts I cling, like a lunatic To a gutter . . . And I’m not shivering From the river—for I was born Naiad! To follow the river, as if it were your hand, Of a lover, walking beside me— And faithful . . . The dead are faithful. Yes, but not everyone dies in a squalid room . . . Death to the left, and to the right— You. My right side numb, as if it were dead. Shaft of stunning light. Laugh, like a cheap tambourine. —You and I need to . . . (Shivering.) —Will we have the courage? 4 A wave of fair-haired Mist—a flounce of gauze. Much too stale, much too smoky, And, above all, too much talk! What does it reek of? Extreme haste, Indulgence and peccadillo: Inside information And ballroom powder. Men with children, acting single, Wearing their rings, venerable youths . . . Too many jokes, too much laughter, Marina Tsvetaeva 321  And above all, too much calculation! Prominent and petty, alike, Top to bottom . . . Inside trading And ballroom powder. (Half turned away: is this— Our house?—No, I won’t be your hostess!) One—bending over his checkbook, Another—over a tiny kidskin glove, And another—over a little patent leather pump Works unobtrusively. . . . Advantageous marriages And ballroom powder. Silver notches at the window— Like a Star of Malta! Too much caressing, too much petting, And above all, too much pawing! Too much pinching . . . (Yesterday’s Leftovers—don’t be so picky: they are ripe!) . . . Commercial intrigues And ballroom powder. Do you think this chain’s too short? But then it’s not just plated; it’s platinum! With their triple chins Trembling, they chew their veal Like calves. Over each sweet neck A devil—a gas burner. . . . Business failures And some brand of gunpowder— Bertold Schwartz’s . . . He was so— Gifted—such a philanthropist. 322 Russian —We need to talk. Will we have the courage? 5 I detect movement in his lips. But know—he won’t speak first. —You...


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