Issue 82, Winter 1981
(to Marina Tsvetayeva)
Oh the losses into the All, Marina, the stars that are falling!
We can’t make it larger, wherever we fling ourselves, to whatever
star we may go! In the Whole, all things are already numbered.
So when anyone falls, the perfect sum is not lessened.
Whoever lets go in his fall, dives into the source and is healed.
Is all of life, then, a game, a meaningless fluctuation
of sameness, nowhere a name, nowhere a lasting achievement?
Waves, Marina, we are ocean! Depths, Marina, we are sky.
Earth, Marina, we are earth, a thousand times springtime, like larks
that a song bursting out of their breast flings into invisible heights.
We begin it as joy, and already it wholly surpasses us;
suddenly the force of our heaviness bends the song down to lament.
Yet isn’t lament really a younger, descending joy?
Even the gods below want to be praised, Marina,
So innocent are gods, they listen for praise like children.
Praising, my dearest—let us be lavish with praise,
nothing really belongs to us. We put our hands lightly around
the necks of unbroken flowers, I saw it on the Nile, in Kom- Ombo,
Just so, Marina, the kings gave away the gifts they renounced.
As angels stop and put marks on the doors of those to be saved,
we—tbough we seem to be tender—grant our toucb to
this thing or that.
Ab, bow remote already, bow inattentive, Marina,
even in our innermost pretence. Signallers: nothing more.
This silent commerce, when life is no longer willing
to endure one of our kind, when it seizes him in its grip,
avenges itself, kills. For the fact that its strength can kill
was plain to us from its delicacy and restraint
and from the curious power that transforms us from living beings
into survivors. Non-being. Do you remember bow often
a blind command would carry us through the icy
waiting room of new birth?,, , Us?—a body of eyes
under numberless lids, refusing. Carried the down-
thrown heart in our breast, the heart of a whole generation.
To a goal as welcome as the temperate lands are for migrating birds,
it carried the soaring image and plan of our transformation.
Lovers were not, Marina, are not permitted to know
so much of failure. Must be as if they were new.
Only their grave is old, only it ponders and darkens
under the sobbing tree, remembering all that has been.
Only their grave collapses; they are supple as reeds;
what bends them too far, rounds them into rich garlands.
How they blow about in the May wind! From the Ever,
in which you breathe and surmise, the moment has shut them out,
(Oh how I understand you, delicate flower on the same
imperishable stalk. How wildly I fling myself into the night air
that breathes upon you.) the gods long ago learned
bow to dissemble halves. We, drawn into the cycle,
filled ourselves out to the whole, like the disk ofthe moon.
Even in time of waning, in the weeks of our gradual change,
nothing could ever again help us to fulfillment, except
our own solitary course over the sleepless landscape,