Volume 9 (Spring 2015)

Arseny Tarkovsky

          translated by Philip Metres and Dmitri Psurtsev


Each person has only

one body, like a cell.

The soul is bone-weary

of this fated shell.

With ears and eyes

the size of a dime

and skin made of scars

stitched on a carcass.

It flies through the pupil

into the heavenly well,

onto the icy needle,

onto the bird's hearse.

It can hear, through bars

of its living jail,

the woods and fields rattle

the seven seas trumpet.

It's a shame for a soul

to be without the body's clothes,

with no intentions or designs,

no actions or lines.

Here's a riddle without the answer:

who will come again

having danced on these planks

when there's no one to dance?

I'm dreaming of another

soul in other clothes:

it burns, rushing like a spirit fire

from shyness to hope.

Shadowless, it walks

into the distance, unseeable,

leaves the table

a cluster of lilacs.

Run along, child. Don't mourn

poor Eurydice.

Tap your copper hoop

with your stick, across the world—

as long as I hear one-fourth

of its noise, the earth

echoes the dry joy

of every plodding step.            


У человека тело

Одно, как одиночка.

Душе осточертела

Сплошная оболочка

С ушами и глазами

Величиной в пятак

И кожей –  шрам на шраме,

Надетой на костяк.

Летит сквозь роговицу

В небесную криницу,

На ледяную спицу,

На птичью колесницу

И слышит сквозь решётку

Живой тюрьмы своей

Лесов и нив трещотку,

Трубу семи морей.

Душе грешно без тела,

Как телу без сорочки, –  

Ни помысла, ни дела,

Ни замысла, ни строчки.

Загадка без разгадки:

Кто возвратится вспять,

Сплясав на той площадке,

Где некому плясать?

И снится мне другая

Душа, в другой одежде:

Горит, перебегая

От робости к надежде,

Огнём, как спирт, без тени

Уходит по земле,

На память гроздь сирени

Оставив на столе.

Дитя, беги, не сетуй

Над Эвридикой бедной

И палочкой по свету

Гони свой обруч медный,

Пока хоть в четверть слуха

В ответ на каждый шаг

И весело и сухо

Земля шумит в ушах.


Seven days of the week—seven pigeons

devour our leftover crumbs

and wing away. Other pigeons

fly down, to replace them.

We live to count by seven—

but this final flock's only five.

Who would want heaven     

in exchange for these old backyards?     

Here, too, our gray ones coo,  

waddle in circles, mourn, complain,      

peck at the asphalt grains,

and at funerals, sip the rain.


Семь голубей – семь дней недели

Склевали корм и улетели,

На смену этим голубям

Другие прилетают к нам.

Живём, считаем по семерке,

В последней стае только пять,

И наши старые задворки     

На небо жалко променять:     

Тут наши сизари воркуют,

По кругу ходят и жалкуют,

Асфальт крупитчатый клюют

И на поминках дождик пьют.

Arseny Tarkovsky lived from 1907 until 1989, and spent most of his life as a translator of Turkmen, Georgian, Armenian, Arabic, and other Asian poets, publishing his own poems only after Stalin's death (beginning in 1962). Of a younger generation than Akhmatova, Mandelstam, and Tsvetaeva, he both absorbed the Silver Age tradition and hearkened back to the simple and primordial music of Pushkin. He was wounded in World War II, lost a leg to gangrene, and wrote some of the most powerful poems about the Second World War. Later, his son Andrei became an internationally celebrated filmmaker; in a number of his great films, Andrei features his father's poems, demonstrating the aesthetic continuation of the Russian tradition from poetry to film.

Philip Metres is the author of a number of books, most recently Sand Opera (2015), A Concordance of Leaves (2013), abu ghraib arias (2011), To See the Earth (2008), Come Together: Imagine Peace (2008), and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront, Since 1941(University of Iowa Press, 2007). His work has appeared in Best American Poetry, and has garnered two NEAs, the Beatrice Hawley Award, two Arab American Book Awards, the Cleveland Arts Prize, and five Ohio Arts Council Excellence grants. He teaches literature and creative writing at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.  

On Libations: "When I lived in Russia, I learned to survive a winter by beginning with tea and ending with vodka; the tea spreads its obvious warmthfrom the hands and mouth into the stomachbut the vodka works its secret warmth from the inside-out."

Dmitri Psurtsev is a poet and translator from Moscow, with two books of his own poetry (Ex Roma Tertia and Tengiz Notebook) and numerous translations from the English. He teaches at Moscow State Linguistic University.