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346 Russian Olga Sedakova (b. 1949) Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Man When, why, who with what housepainter’s brush covered these features over, which were once meaningless as the sky, without purpose, end, or name— pounding storms, squadrons of aircraft, a child’s jackstraws— the sky stirring the trees without wind, yet stronger than wind: so that they get up and walk away from their roots, away from their earth, away from their kith and kin: o, there, where we do not know ourselves at all! into the meaningless never-darkening sky. With what lime-plaster, what clay what meaning, profit, fear and success have they been sealed tight, dead— slots, oriel windows, loopholes in never-whitewashed stone, through which, remember, you looked and could never get your fill? Ach, du liebe Augustin, dear Augustine, it’s all over, all over, all ended. Ended in the usual way. Olga Sedakova 347  The Angel of Rheims For François Fédier Are you ready? This angel smiles— I ask, although I know That you are doubtless ready: For I am not speaking to just anyone, But to you, One whose heart will not survive the betrayal Of your earthly king, Who was crowned here before all the people, Or of your other Lord, The King of Heaven, our Lamb, Who dies in the hope That you will hear me again; Again and again, As every evening My name is rung out by the bells Here, in the country of excellent wheat And bright grapes, And tassel and cluster Trembling respond— But all the same, Set in this pink crumbling stone, I raise my hand, Broken off in the World War. All the same, let me remind you: Are you ready? For plague, famine, earthquake, fire, Foreign invasions, wrath visited upon us? All this is doubtless important. But it is not what I mean. 348 Russian It is not what I was sent for. I say: Are you Ready For unbelievable joy? Music For Alexandre Vustich By the gates of air, as they say now, before the celestial steppes, where half-incorporeal salt marshes prepare to float away, alone, as usual, straying across the splendor of the oecumene, distorting various languages, expecting who knows what: not happiness, not suffering, not the sudden transparency of nontransparent existence, listening intently, like a watchdog, I distinguish sounds— sounds not sounds: a prelude to music which no one calls “mine.” For it is more than no one’s: music that has no tune or tone, no stock or root, nor bar line, nor the five lines invented by d’Arezzo, only shiftings of the unattainable, of height. Music, sky of Mars, star of archaic battle, where we are at once and irrevocably defeated by the approach of armed detachments of distance, by the beating of breakers, by the first touch of a wavelet. I pleaded for you on the hill of Zion, forgetting friend and foe, everyone, everything— Olga Sedakova 349  for the sake of unsounding sound, of unrung ringing, of your almightiness, your all-suffering. This is a city in central Europe its gates of air: perhaps Budapest, I think, but that magnificent display of embankments and towers I will not see, don’t even wish to, I’m not sorry at all. In transit. Music is in transit. The bubbling of lava in a volcano’s crater, the chirping of a cricket on a village hearth, the heart of the ocean, pounding in the ocean’s breast, as long as it beats, music, we are alive, as long as no least patch of land belongs to you, no glory, no assurance, no success, as long as you lie, like Lazarus, at another’s gate, the heart can still look into the heart, like echo into echo, into the immortal, into the downpour that, like love, will never cease. Emily Grosholz and Larissa Volokhonsky, 2009 ...


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