Where shall we begin? Everything pitches and splits, The air quivers with comparisons, No one word is better than another, The earth hums with metaphors. And light two-wheeled chariots, Harnessed brightly to flocks of strenuous birds, Explode, Vying with the snorting favourites of the race-track. Three times blest he who puts a name into song; A song adorned with a name Survives longer among the others, Marked by a fillet That frees it from forgetfulness and stupefying smells, Whether proximity of man or the smell of a beast’s pelt Or simply a whiff of thyme rubbed between the palms.
The air dark like water, everything alive swims like fish, Fins pushing aside the sphere That’s compact, resilient, hardly heated – The crystal in which wheels move and horses shy, The moist black-earth every night flung open anew By pitchforks, tridents, hoes and ploughs. The air is mixed as densely as the earth – You can’t get out, to get inside is arduous.
Rustling runs through the trees like a green ball-game; Children play knucklebones with the vertebrae of dead animals. The fragile calculation of the years of our era ends. Let us be grateful for what we had: I too made mistakes, lost my way, lost count. The era rang like a golden sphere, Cast, hollow, supported by no one. Touched, it answered yes and no, As a child will say: I’ll give you an apple, or: I won’t give you one; Its face an exact copy of the voice that pronounces these words.
The sound is still ringing although its source has ceased. The horse foams in the dust. But the acute curve of his neck Preserves the memory of the race with outstretched legs When there were not four But as many as the stones on the road, Renewed in four shifts As blazing hooves pushed off from the ground. So, Whoever finds a horseshoe Blows away the dust, Rubs it with wool till it shines, Then Hangs it over the threshold To rest, So that it will no longer have to strike sparks from flint. Human lips which have nothing more to say Preserve the form of the last word said. And the arm retains the sense of weight Though the jug splashes half-empty on the way home.
What I am saying at this moment is not being said by me But is dug from the ground like grains of petrified wheat. Some on their coins depict a lion, Others a head; Various tablets of brass, of gold and bronze Lie with equal honour in the earth. The century, trying to bite through them, left its teeth-marks there. Time pares me down like a coin, And there is no longer enough of me for myself.
1 January 1924
Whoever has been kissing time’s tortured crown Shall recall later, with filial tenderness, How time lay down to sleep In the snowdrift of wheat beyond the window. Whoever lifted the sick eyelids of the age – Two vast and sleepy eye-balls – Hears everlastingly the roaring of the rivers Of false and desolate times.
The potentate-era has orbs like sleepy apples And a lovely earthenware mouth. But it shall fall, expiring On the overwhelmed arm of its ageing son. I know life’s exhalations weaken everyday: A little more, and the simple songs of palpable injury Will have been cut short, Lips sealed with tin.
An earthenware life! A dying era! What I dread is this: that you will be understood Only by someone whose smile is helpless, By someone who is lost. What anguish – to search for a lost word, To lift sick eyelids, And with lime-corroded blood Gather night grasses for an alien tribe.
What an era: layers of lime in the sick son’s blood Harden; Moscow sleeps, like a wooden box, And there’s nowhere to run to from the tyrant-epoch… Snow, as of old, smells of apples. I want to escape from my own threshold. Where to? The street is dark And conscience shows up ahead of me, white, Like salt scattered for pavements. How could I ever betray to scandalmongers – Again the frost smells of apples – That marvellous pledge to the Fourth Estate And vows solemn enough for tears?
Who else shall you kill? Who else extol? What lie invent? The Underwood’s cartilage – quick, wrench out its key And you’ll find the little bone of a pike; And, layers of lime thawing in the sick son’s blood, Blissful laughter shall splash out… But the typewriters’ mere sonatina Is only a shadow of former, mighty sonatas.
TWO POEMS PUBLISHED IN
(1931 AND 1932)
(3)Armenia, you call for colours – And with his paw a lion Seizes half a dozen crayons from a pencil-box.
Here the women pass, Stark as children’s drawings. They bestow their splendour, Their lionesque beauty, And do not terrorize the blood.
(4)I’ve drooled over my dishevelled life, like a mullah over his Koran; I’ve frozen time and haven’t spilt hot blood…
(7)Majesty of clamorous boulders – Armenia! Armenia! Summoning raucous hills to war – Armenia! Armenia!
Unendingly journeying towards the silver trumpets of Asia – Armenia! Armenia! Lavishly scattering the Persian coins of the sun – Armenia! Armenia!
(13)Earthenware, azure… azure, clay… What more is needed? Squint quickly, Like a myopic shah, over a turquoise ring, Over earth’s mould, whose script and lexicon are ringing, A festering text, a costly clay, By which we are tormented, stirred, As by music and the word.