June 13, 2008

Voloshin Poems

Voloshin Poems

Was it not you
Who in the time of sorrow
Cast down
The scales and the sword
And licensed the berserk
To weigh the good and evil?

Was it not you
Who kneaded peoples
Solidly and densely,
Leavening the dough
With blood and tears,
Who now tramples down, fierce,
Human clusters,
By fury overtaken?

Was it not you
Who flung the poet
Onto the agorae
of the universe
For him
To be the orb and ear?

Was it not you
Who dispossessed
Our arms of vigor
And forbade us
To stack offences up
On the deep dish
Of earthly scales,
But decreed
That we become
A pointer marking
The difference in weight?

Was it not you
Who forced the heart to bless
The murderer and murdered,
The enemy and kinfolk?

Was it not you
Who compelled the mind
To reconcile itself
To the fulfillment
Of your unfathomable ways --
Ablaze with contradictions
Incongruous with humanly
Restricted thought?

Give us the strength
To swear by the wisdom
Of bloodsheds past;
Allow to see,
Through death and time,
The brawl of nations
As a spasm of passion
Ejecting seeds
Of otherworldly flora!

1915, Paris


My bonfire on the shore was burning down.
I heard the rustling sound of streaming glass.
The acrid soul of wistful wormwood wound
Through languid darkness, swayed, and flowed past.

The granite crags resemble fractured wings.
The weight of hills bends down a spinal cord.
The no-man's land is stiff and suffering.
The mouth of Earth has been denied the word!

A child of the inquisitive dark nights,
I am your eyes, wide-open to invite
The gaze of ancient stars, those lonesome lights
Whose prying rays reach out into the night.

I am your mouth of stone, your voiceless lyre!
By silence fettered, I have grown as mute
As extinct suns. I am the frozen fire
Of words. I am the sightless, wingless you.

O captive mother! How at night I bend
To feel your bosom - only you can see
The bitter smoke, the wormwood's bitter scent,
The bitterness of waves - will stay in me.


The twilight has imbued the hills with antique gold
And gall. The shredded, shaggy steppe, lit up bright red
And brown, flows like chestnut fur in strands aglow.
The shrubs burst into flame, the waters blaze like metal.

Eroded hollows lay bare enormous blocks of rock
And boulders piled up, mysterious, morose.
The winged dusk uncovers hints and figures...
Here are the bared teeth of jaws a-grinning, a massive paw

At rest, a dubious hill resembling a swollen rib cage.
Whose crooked spine, instead of hair, has sprouted thyme?
Who lives around here: a monster? or a titan?

It's close and stifling where I am... But there,
In that vast expanse, the scents of rotting grass
And iodine suffuse the air, and the weary Ocean pants.


Odysseus in Cimmerea.

To Lydia Zinoviev-Annibal

For days on end we sailed the river Ocean
To meet the day; our sails are stretched and sure
Our course, resistless land propels our motion;
The voice of waves grows weary and obscure,

The orb of day goes blind and burns carnation-
red; at last, night falls, and, like a lure,
A land appears far off, whose vegetation
Is meager, blue from fog, its crags yet bluer.

We're heading for Persephone's dark chapel,
The land whose slopes are dressed in horse-tail, fern,
Black yew-trees, poplars, willows. There we yearn

Midst wistful groves to hear the muffled babble
Of brooks, to reach the spot where day declines,
Where shadows meet and grief with grief aligns.

Your love is like the Milky Way
Whose stellar dew inside me glimmers.
In dreams, its hidden torment shimmers
Like diamonds rippling in the waves.

You are, like astral fluid, bitter,
The light of tears that pierces graves.
I am the skyline that obeys
The dawn, its blind and useless glitter.

I pity night... Is it because
Its stellar agony will cause
A death and harden thus our hearts?

My day is like blue ice... Behold!
The stars grow dim, as night departs
At dawn and softly enters cold.

March 1907


The barren slope of the meandering valley
Is overgrown with hoary, wiry grass.
Spurge shows up white. Eroded beds of clay
Reveal the sparkling lead and shale and mica.

The water-worn and slaty walls sprout capers;
A crevice clasps the olive's withered trunk;
Above the hill, the violet Karadag
Rears up his summits in a jagged ridge.

The sultriness has wrapped the hills in haze.
The fumes of grass, mercurial reflections,
The screams of cicadae and birds of prey –

Make dull the senses, cause the heat to quaverÐ
And yonder, through their yawning orbits, gaze
The trampled-out eyes of a colossal Face.

Koktebel, 1907, April

A sacred wood was here. The messenger of gods
Would let his winged foot fall lightly on these glades.
The onetime site of cities kept no trace of their ruin.
In flocks, sheep creep along the bronze inclines.

The slopes are woodless. In the green twilight, the mountains
Form a jagged crown, mysteriously sad.
Whose ancient anguish stung my prophesying spirit?
Who knows the path divine - where it starts and ends?

The pebbles of eroded screes crackle underfoot
Distinctly, as before. The ancient sea boils over
The roaring sandbanks, heaving foamy crests.

The starlit nights pass one by one in tears.
The gloomy faces of the cast-off gods command
And beckon, stare and call me forth - resistless.


The stoop of oaks lifts up the chrome of clouds.
Cliffs harbour alcoves, niches, grottos deep.
And rain and wind and heat have left their traces
Into these stones engraved. A sketch is grooved
Onto the slope, crayoned by lichen, framed by moss,
And walls of rock rise up as icon-cases.
The cinnabar and niello here, yonder -
Vestiges of gilding and of icons
The cryptic visages time-worn...


From Lunaria


The pearl bejeweling the quiet of night,
The gem of the lagoon's star-studded base!
Your light makes young and pallid every face,
Thorn-apple longs for You in love-lorn plight.

Love's anguish echoes in the hearts the tunes
That, string-like strummed, Your rays set loose.
Uneasy dreams revive and reproduce
In haunting hues the once disquieting moons.

Your humid glow and faded shadows, falling
Upon the walls, the stairway, and the flooring,
Throw tints of turquoise onto stones, finesse

The leaf of plane toward greater yet indention,
Endowing strands of vine with greater fineness.
Dreams' luminary! Mistress of conception!

Koktebel, 1913

Full-blossomed, blue-grey and milky, the day froze still;
The sea, grown pallid, sobs as it kisses the sand;
The wings of the mist
Shed splashes of brine...

Humility envelops the heart. Quiet
Thoughts die away. In the orchard, the olive
Stretches her boughs to the blind sky
With the gesture of a slave...


A somber adolescent, I roamed
The acrid valleys
Of wistful Cimmerea,
My sightless spirit
With the anguish of the ancient land.
And in the twilight in the folds
And depths of bays
I waited for the sign and call,
And once, before the break of day,
I watched Orion rise
And realised
The horror of the blinded planet,
My orphanhood and sonhood
Boundless warmth and pity
Overfill me.
My love for the human body
Is inconsolable. I know
The flame
That languishes in bodily separation.
I like to hold in hand
Dry burning fingers
And read man's destiny
Along the lines of prophesying palms.
But I was not conferred the gift
Of undivided love for one:
I abandon all, forgetting no one.
I never have disturbed what grows,
Nor have I ever plucked
A budding flower,
Picking only ripened fruits,
Thus lightening overburdened boughs.
And if I was the source of pain
It only was because
I pitied those towards whom
One should have been unfeeling at the time,
Because I wasn't willing
To exhaust to death
Those, who asking for compassion,
Begged wholeheartedly
For annihilation...


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