FIVE SONNETS ON LOVE AND DEATH
To Ella Milstein
Do we of our free will, for our own good
Participate in suffering's rotation?
And does the river rush its widowhood
And put on night's weeds in anticipation
Of it? The sticky gum that trees exude-
Is it related of the grim vocation
Of Alexandrian weepers? Respond! Could
Sepulchral, misty rocks cause this sensation?
Wait! Do not be too quick with a reply:
If grief and torment are our lot for ages,
The fault is not the Maker's shilly-shally!
Let first the height, the tragic frozen sky
Cover with snow our parting's sharper edges
And take in peace the death mask of the valley.
Countless black boughs disfigure, scratch the empty
Transparent stretches of the boundless sky;
The mirror's cracked, but watch the snow attempting
To save its solid image on the fly…
Our love was filled with pain and mutual tempting-
So, hallow it! Pray before I say goodbye
Not to this world-to our depleted plenty-
From my captivity that went awry.
Yet from my underground I keep lamenting;
The tenderness that you denied my heart-
A voluntary outcast's heart-will break it.
Thus did the subtlety of Chinese painting
Add weight, give extra meaning to the canvas' part
That stayed outside the frame, beyond the bracket.
Look at this youth: he is too "high" to bother,
Guffawing by a stupid TV screen,
Mindless of his intoxicated mother,
Whose tumor works its way like a machine.
So is our deafened world content to smother
An odd, rebellious sermon in chagrin,
For heaven's gift (say, manna or some other)
Won't let dwarfs' ecstasy arise from spleen.
Each age loves to destroy its greatest poet.
Yet some are killed, while quite a few are not.
And happiness will pass us by, you know it:
Distress, affliction will be people's lot
If they continue merrily, for profit
To stone their firebrand and the Muses' prophet.
Twelve years ago, a butterfly so slender,
I shocked your friends: a threat, a caveat?
They babbled busily: "Will she surrender?
Who will be chosen next? This lucky brat?"
So did they speak, and later, on a bender,
Feigned drunken middle class and parlor chat.
Those days are gone for you and "the pretender,"
A dapper bridegroom wearing a cravat.
Sweet-home-made wines, all sorts of local cheeses,
Daub on the wall, obscenities from teases,
Cheap gewgaws a la Africa-farewell!
And you, old, self-perpetuating rubbish,
Hard-hearted at its core and vainly snobbish,
The product of a Soviet Jewish swell!
The Haifa port. I found your Tatar dad,
All the while watching fate routinely felling
My best hopes. To my losses you could add
A dream: to see my parents' humble dwelling.
A green card? It's a thing I wish I had!
Deceitful lust is something I heard swelling
And your "hoicks, hoicks a boy, tally-ho!" Too bad!
I end up like a beast amid the rabble's yelling.
One slipped on soap and had a funny fall-
Who'll weep for him? The scribbler's death was oddest:
The play was his and he produced the script.
O hapless troubadour Peire Vidal!
Put in a wolf skin by his crafty goddess,
By hungry dogs he was attacked and ripped!
Translated by Anatoly Liberman