poetry & my mother

Here be poetry.

I wonder if this poem contains clang associations in its original Russian.

“I never think or argue…”
by Marina Tsvetaeva

I never think or argue, or whine to any one.
I do not sleep.
I strive for neither sea, nor moon, nor sun,
Nor for the ship.

I don’t perceive the warmth indoors or
Greenery of grass.
I don’t await the gift I wished for
To come at last.

Neither the morning nor the streetcar’s call
Delights me as of late.
I live, oblivious of time, and don’t recall
The century and date.

A little dancer on a slashed rope that’ll collapse,
I fear, too soon,
I am a shadow’s shade, a lunatic, perhaps,
Of two dark moons.

Marina Tsvetaeva, 1914
Translated by Andrey Kneller

My love of poetry is thanks to my mother, who loved it too, with special emphasis on Neruda, the Mandelstams, Akhmatova and Tvsetaeva.

by Pablo Neruda

And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

She spoke some Russian; she visited Neruda’s house in Chile. I’ve noticed over the (many) years, that when I’m feeling a certain type of sadness, I go looking for poetry to provide solace. It’s like songs, it feels as though they understand me.

Here is my gift
by Anna Akhmatova

Here is my gift, not roses on your grave,
not sticks of burning incense.
You lived aloof, maintaining to the end
your magnificent disdain.
You drank wine, and told the wittiest jokes,
and suffocated inside stifling walls.
Alone you let the terrible stranger in,
and stayed with her alone.

Now you’re gone, and nobody says a word
about your troubled and exalted life.
Only my voice, like a flute, will mourn
at your dumb funeral feast.
Oh, who would have dared believe that half-crazed I,
I, sick with grief for the buried past,
I, smoldering on a slow fire,
having lost everything and forgotten all,
would be fated to commemorate a man
so full of strength and will and bright inventions,
who only yesterday it seems, chatted with me,
hiding the tremor of his mortal pain.

These aren’t necessarily her favourite poems, some are and some are mine. I suppose I am a modernist because of her too.

And Could You?
by Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky

I suddenly smeared the weekday map
splashing paint from a glass;
On a plate of aspic
I revealed
the ocean’s slanted cheek.
On the scales of a tin fish
I read the summons of new lips.
And you
could you perform
a nocturne on a drainpipe flute?

High Flight (an Airman’s Ecstasy)
by John Gillespie Magee

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God

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