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ADELAIDE Independent Quarterly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Trimestral, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  

 




 

 



 

 

 

 

TREES
9 poems by Marina Tsvetaeva
translated by Mary Jane White

For my Czech friend,
Anna Antonova Teskova.

 

   1
Having lost faith in mortals,
I want no more of enchantment.
Into the late-season heather,
Into the slip-silver of a dry spell,

--Let my shadow’s name
Go trumpeted by the trumpeters!—
Into the heather-wastes,
Into the heather-dry streams.

Late-season heather!
Bare stone outcrop!
Who assure me we are
The same sort of orphan,

Dropping or stripping away
The last shreds of brocade—
Into the heather-ruins,
Into the heather-dry streams.

Life:  the duplicity of its
Affairs and strictures of its
ugliness. By greyness and dryness,
(For my guide now is—rigorous),

Led up, where the rowanberry
Stands finer than King David!
Into the heather-greys,
Into the heather-dry waves.

5 September 1922

 

2

When down a string of insults—my incensed
Soul has worked its way through,
When seven times over I have renounced
Joining battle with my demons—

Not to these, the un-subsiding
Heavy rains of fire into an abyss:
Not to any earthly meanness of
time, Not to human stubbornness—

Trees!  I come to you!  To escape
The roar of the marketplace!
Your soaring upward is
How my heart exhausts itself!

Oak who resists the gods! With your thrashing
And all your roots walking in state!
My willow-prophets!
My birch-virgins!

Elm—a frenzied Absalom,
In torture, up there, on the rack,
Pine—to my lips, you are a psalm:
Bitterness of the rowan berries . . .

To you! Into your lively-plashing quicksilver
Of leaves—let them all come down!
For the first time to fling my arms wide!
To pitch out my manuscripts!

Your green reflections in swarms . . .
As if splashing—into my arms . . .
My bare-headed ones,
My shivering ones!

8 September 1922

 

3

Like bathers, in a loose circle
Churning, like a gathering
Of protecting nymphs—when suddenly,
The tossing tree lines

Like thrown-back heads and
hands, -- A scroll unwound!—
In their dance come to a sudden end
Like a wave of defenders—

Like a slender arm to a hip . . .
Like a craning neck . . .
The birches’ silver,
The lively brooks!

9 September 1922

 

4

Friends!  Gathered brothers!
You, whose wave swept away
Every trace of earthly insult.
Forest!—My own Elysium!

From the raucous camp of the over-
Familiar drinking companions of my soul
I will come to my end, choosing sobriety,
A day—in your quietest of fraternities.

O, from the threshing floors
Into the bright sacrificial fires
Of your groves!  The great repose
Of your mosses!  The shedding of your conifers . . .

A tree’s prophetic news!
A forest prophesying:  There is
Here, above the criminal rabble—
A perfect life:

Without servitude, or ugliness,
Where everything takes on its full magnitude,
Where the truth is accorded greater stature:
On the far side of our days . . .

17 September 1922

 

5

Fugitives? –Adjuncts?
Sound off, if you’re alive
Monks in their saddles,
Who see God in the thickets?

How many rushing sandals!
How many blazing towers!
How many hounds and deer—
In the boiling over of trees!

Forest! Today you are—a rider!
What people call
A plague: with a final
Convulsion of the trees—

Here—in his loose robes
A boy, raised on nectar.
Here—abruptly and from the
root A forest breaks for the sky!

No: rather: not snowflakes—
In a flood of dry leaves!
I see: headlong lances, I
hear: hooves of blood!

And with his open raiments
Flying by—who saw?!—
That’s Saul following David:
To his own dark-complected death!

3 October 1922

 

6

With neither paint, nor brush!
Light—is a kingdom, and it is grey.
A lie—these red leaves:
Here is light, trampling color.

Color—trampled by light.
Light—to color, like a heel to my chest.
Isn’t this where, isn’t this where
The mystery and force and essence

Of the autumnal forest lies?
Above the quiet backwater of time
As if a curtain were
Drawn aside—and menacingly behind it . . .

Were your son
Seen through a raiment of
estrangements— Words: Palestine
And Elysium rise up suddenly . . .

Pouring . . . Transparency . . .
Through a trembling of fine ornament—
Light, more blessed than death And—
the connection breaks.

________

Autumnal greyness.
You, apotheosis of Goethe!
Here many have come to agreement,
And even more—have come undone.

So these grey hairs gleam:
Like the ancient heads of a family—
The last son,
The last of seven—

Passing through the last doorways—
The extended luminescence of my hands . . .
(I don’t credit color!
Here comes purple—the last servant!)

. . . Already unlike light:
Like some sort of luminescence gleaming . . .
Isn’t this, isn’t this
How—the connection breaks.
________

So these deserts gleam. And—having
said more than I could: The sands
of Palestine,
Elysium’s cupolas . . .

8-9 October 1922

 

7

She who slept untroubled by visions—
Started and rose up.
Into the austere measures of a psalm,
Like a gradual, visual scale—

Swarms of waking bodies:
Hands!—Hands!—Hands!
Like a host under a rain of arrows,
Ripe for tribulation.

Scrolls unwinding into the dust
Of garments, transparent as nets.
Hands covering the privates, (Of
virgins!) and the whips

Of elders, who know no shame . . .
Of adolescents—birds!
Like a cavalry answering the trumpet of judgment!
A torso above the waist

Worked free of its shroud—
Ascent of a grey-beard:
I am!—Transmigration!—Legion!
Whole nations

Of emigrants!—Into mercy and wrath!
Be aware!—Awake!—Remember!
. . Several trees running up
A high hill, of an evening.

12 October 1922

 

8

Someone rides—to mortal victory.
The trees assume—gestures of
tragedy. A Jew’s—sacrificial dance!
The trees assume—tremblings of mystery.

This—is a conspiracy against the Age:
Against authorities, accounts, time, the fractional.
This—is a rent veil:
The trees assume—gestures of epitaph . . .

Someone rides. Heaven—like an entrance.
The trees assume—gestures of triumph.

7 May 1923

 

9
What intuitions,
What truths,
What stirs you,
Floods of leaves?

What frenzied
Sibyl’s mysteries—
What stirs you,
Makes you delirious?

What in your currents?
Still I know—you treat
The injury of Time—
With the coolness of Eternity.

Still like a young genius
You rise up—to discredit
The lie of any eyewitness
Who was never there.

So that again, as before,
The Earth—would appear to us.
So that—under our eyelids
Our designs might come to pass.

So, never boast—about
this Currency of miracles!
So that—under our eyelids
These mysteries might come to pass!

And away with certainty!
And away with urgency!
Into the current!—Into the oracles
Of indirect speech . . .

Are these leaves—like leaves?
This the Sibyl—moaned hoarse?
. . . Avalanches of leaves,
Ruins of leaves.

9 May 1923

 

marina cvetajeva

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941), admired by Joseph Brodsky:  “Well, if you are talking about the twentieth century, I’ll give you a list of poets.  Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva (and she is the greatest one, in my view.  The greatest poet in the twentieth century was a woman.)”

Mary Jane White

Mary Jane White, MFA Iowa Writers’ Workshop, NEA Fellowships (in poetry and translation). Tsvetaeva translations:  Starry Sky to Starry Sky (1988) New Year’s, an elegy for Rilke; Poem of the Hill (The New England Review); Poem of the End (The Hudson Review), reprinted in Poets Translate Poets, (Syracuse 2013).

 

 


 




 




 

 

 

     
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