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A translation I did of the poem И это снилось мне, и это снится мнe…”  

by Arseny Tarkovsky, visionary 20th century Russian poet, 

and father of filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky

 


 

 

 

And this I dreamt, and this I dream…

 

And this I dreamt, and this I dream,

And this I’ll dream again,

And all repeats, and all re-forms,

And what I dreamt you’ll dream.

 

There, estranged from us, from the world estranged,

Wave follows wave to crash against the shore,

And on the wave a star, a person, a bird,

And life, and dreams, and death – wave follows wave.

 

I don’t need numbers: I was, I am, I’ll be,

Life – wonder of wonders, and falling to my knees,

Alone, an orphan, I abandon myself,

Alone, among mirrors – bound among reflections,

Oceans and cities, luminous, deliquescent.

A mother in tears lifts the child to her knee.

 

 

*  *  *

 

 

И это снилось мне, и это снится мне…

 

И это снилось мне, и это снится мне,

И это мне еще когда-нибудь приснится,

И повторится все, и все довоплотится,

И вам приснится все, что видел я во сне.

 

Там, в стороне от нас, от мира в стороне

Волна идет вослед волне о берег биться,

А на волне звезда, и человек, и птица,

И явь, и сны, и смерть – волна вослед волне.

 

Не надо мне числа: я был, и есмь, и буду,

Жизнь – чудо из чудес, и на колени чуду

Один, как сирота, я сам себя кладу,

Один, среди зеркал – в ограде отражений

Морей и городов, лучащихся в чаду.

И мать в слезах берет ребенка на колени.

 

1974

 

 

 


 

Arseny Tarkovsky (1907-1989), along with his older contemporaries Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva, is now generally considered one of the preeminent poets to come out of the Soviet era. Unable to publish his first collection until his mid-fifties due to Soviet censorship, he was known for many decades mainly as a translator of Asian poetry. His verse eventually received wider attention in part by appearing in the films of his son Andrei— arguably one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Tarkovsky’s poetry is at once intensely personal and broadly metaphysical, often turning to the natural world and dreamlike imagery (some of which is evoked similarly in visual form by his son), drawing heavily on rhythm and allusion, and sprinkled with colloquialisms of the Elisavetgrad region (now Kirovohrad, central Ukraine) where he grew up.

 

 Appeared in Metamorphoses: Journal of Literary Translation, Spring 2012 issue (Five Colleges, Northampton, MA), and Denver Critic (now defunct and presence-less, as tends to happen to many online publications) 



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The Flood

 

Proud monument: 
this City we’ve created. 
A little lee against the cold.
How its aerie flag,
lit up with heart-swelling lights, 
ripples hypnotically in the winter heights. 
 
Estranged river,
moved by the same currents
as this flag on high, 
how you tolerate your feigned taming
by these brash, befouling mites
unaware they emerged from you.
Stretching out from the greater sea,
rippling with cool unrest, a potential energy
unleashed effortlessly,
you solemnly observe these deepening infractions,
assuaged as yet by how quickly they dissipate.
And brother air, stretching out to void, 
suffers the giddy metal insects
congesting his blowing emptiness. 

 

Proud species,
spreading their electric grid over
the course of the earth,
even claiming the sky, the water.
Faces of laughter, faces of mirth,
faces of sorrow, faces of woe,
as they skate around and around blindly—
buoyed in love like angels in stasis,
rapt in hate like uncontrollable wildfire,
each mental landscape a world entire:
the infinite in the particular—
unknowingly forming art
whose patterns reveal
the undetectable Laws.

 

Nature frowns 
as it reclaims
these lost, insatiable
vessels. 
‘They’ve grown unaccountably
headstrong. 
They don’t see I in them
or them in I.
Their blind longing 
for the realization of my Mystery
is commendable,
and needfully— 
beyond me. 
But that which enlarges them
also makes them shackle me, 
and forget me, and condemn me. 
And so: they’ve had their fun. 
Their frissons. . . copulations
and decimations. 
The promise deferred. 
Inexorably, the deal
is done.’ 

 

A tiny manmade light flickering
in the black emptiness
of space,
a caltrop island, 
stretching outwards, 
in heartbeat. . . 

 

Breath dissolving on a windowpane.

 

Proud City, 
standing on a foundation
of impossible achievement, tears, 
and ignorance.
How you passed, for a moment, 
through the repeating dream.

 

 



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Somewhere a Lost City

 

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re still awaiting word.

      Please be patient!”

 

      The ragged man reselling his goods

      The woman sucking her nails

      The child on the platform weary,

             rocking

 

                                 tin drums in the echoing

             corridors of the underground

 

       The people with faces like flowers in a vase of receding water

 

             —the rioting lights of Times Square

             —the nauseous tremors of the subway

                                                            with nervous tick

 

             —the sandwiches left half-consumed

             —the scalding coffee abandoned to cool and expire

                                                            on a table’s edge

             —the bagel smeared grotesquely with cream cheese

 

       The eyes upon you

             masturbate to your impression

             or         dislike you because

             or         see all they are and are not

             The people you’ll never meet, never love, never

                          see expire

             Hidden catacombs of thought

 

                    —pigeons flying somewhere                                             warmer

                    —footprints across crushed cardboard and cigarettes

                    —trashcans resigned to their scattered innards before them

 

             The rush to get somewhere and nowhere

                    for someone and nobody

             All the tired eye sockets, like bruises on week old fruit; heads of hair

                    wilted, and turned gray

 

       The taxi driver who talks himself out of loneliness

 

                    —a mother arguing with a daughter on the subway for everyone

                                                               to hear with silent distaste

 

                    —days wearing out like neglected pistons

                    —mornings when you can’t believe the face in the mirror

 

             The times you vow never to do this

                    again

 

                          The broken resolutions, forgotten promises

 

                          The women— the women!— who               slip by

 

                          Times       you say you’ll move away somewhere           warmer

 

                                           remember:

 

                                                           Colorado skyline, the Grand Canyon

                                                 Paris, Nice, Arles

                                                 the emerald forests of Klimt’s                   delight

                                                       (trees planted side by side like upright toothpicks)

                                                 the orange and pink rooftops of               (Florence)

                                                 the diamond beaches of                           (              )

                                                       (with a rainbow array of fish

                                                                like a handful of children’s trinkets)

 

                    —papers and cans rolling in the wind

                          sweeping along a time-worn current

 

                                                       Car horns and alarms

                                                                        Sirens              the sudden anxiety

                                                                                       of an             ambulance

                                                                                                              police car

                                                                                                           or firetruck

 

 

                                                       Sparklers and firecrackers

                                                                       hissing to death

                                                                                                         in Chinatown

 

                                                 Shadows of the evening

                                                         creeping                                       down telephone poles

 

                                                                      into

                                                                      gloaming

 

                                                                                       a propagation of bright,

                                                                                                                  illusive lights

 

                                                                                          tiny islands             blinking

 

 

                                                                                                                         in the dark

 

                                                                  somewhere—

                                                                                        the lost city

                                                                                                     of our prenatal fantasy

                                                                                                                       our darkness

 

 

                                                                              the crackle of rain                                 mist

                                                                                      in the pre-dawn grayness

                                                                                           that obscures everything

 

                                                                                                                 and makes us laugh

                                                                                                                               one more time

 

                                                                                                                        to be children

 
 

 

Appeared in FIRE: No. 26 (Oxford, UK), In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself Vol. 6 (MW Enterprises, Raleigh, NC), Looking Forward, Looking Back: Canonical Poetry and the Contemporary Response (PulpLit Press, Cambridge, MA), Under the Influence of Art (Portland, OR)



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Appeared in Wild Poets: Magazine No. 5 “Arson” (Seattle)



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Appeared in Wild Poets: ‘best of’ (Seattle)



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It is a pleasure bringing you writings and other media through FWIW, but the site takes a lot of time to run (curate, write for, illustrate, code, share, etc)— sometimes a hundred plus hours a month— and incurs considerable costs to sustain. Donations from engaged readers like yourself are indispensable for it to continue running and remain Ad Free... If you derive any joy and value here, please consider becoming a Supporting Regular, with a modest recurring Monthly Donation of your choice, between a cup of tea and a dinner. (Note: You don’t actually need a PayPal account; just use any credit or debit card and click through.)

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A Poem Lost

 

After climaxing for the first time three times in quick succession and learning that lovemaking can really be the sweaty primal holy blessing of trashy romance novels and exalted DH Lawrence poems, and after the fourth, which began as successively and seemed to move in infinite awesome strides beyond measure, in a hypnotic give and take, a pitter and patter of exultation and disbelief, illumination and death

 

I lay face down in a sheen of sweat in the cool world outside the blanket as she stroked my back in the most delicate sweeping gestures with slight fingers that till this day the thought of makes me tremble

 

I thought of the last solemn day of my journey across America after college: San Diego: the inexplicable old western town on the city’s edge where Mexican blankets in red yellow and white flare in the sun and the smells of dust, dried wood, tobacco and hot peppers pleasantly commingle, where I held on to my solitude while it pained and lashed out, like the adolescence of man, or the first throes of springtime, and everyone seemed as distant and inexplicable as the gestures of pacing speaking adults to a child, yet holy and dear

 

I thought of those solitary moments that seemed graceful and simple then, and now in a tunnel of nostalgia acquire an even fonder and more cherished quality: purchasing rolling papers, two bags of tobacco and a corn cob pipe from the infinitely distant and dear sales clerk with the antiquated visor and striped shirt in the oldtime tobacco shop unchanged since the days of DH Lawrence, sitting on the bench in the dust outside in the sun, rolling a cigarette while two Texan businessmen with large belt buckles on the bench beside strike up a conversation about how they, too, in youth rolled cigarettes like these, fine tobacco, and now in their old age have grown to smoking cigars: and Ah! how lonely I was, and how I marveled and exulted in my loneliness, and how one can so enjoy, can suffuse oneself in so much untainted pleasure from the simple act of rolling cigarettes in the sun, or watching a bird and eating an ice cream cone, or walking among the dust of the alleys of the antiquated western shops on the outskirts of San Diego, reading dubious passages from a Charles Bukowski collection, about Hemingway, and DH Lawrence, and thinking, that Bukowski! sometimes he’s full of shit, but you gotta hand it to him, simultaneously watching the red of the women’s scarves flash in the sun

 

I might have made a poem of this

but her touch was

too much

 

 



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A San Francisco Mythology

 

O bottle!

Plastic bottle

o bottle

plastic whisky bottle

we’re in Fresno

pay attention

we’re in Fresno

a burnt shrub stands in a parking lot

like the skeleton of some primeval bird

in Orange County

I used to know someone fair, bottle

(she had orange ribbons in her hair)

Los Angeles

a journey to the end of the night

Celine’s bright midnight

Barstow, the edge of

the desert

the drugs have begun

to

(take hold). . .

San Fran

                  cisco

blues

      one

          two

            (a one two)

                        three. . .

 

Wandering

in San Francisco

following the light

along the buildings

of North Beach

City Lights

Kerouac alley

old ancient sad-eyed-wise-eyed sages of the promenade

with faces like brown paper bags

bhikkus and bodhisattvas of ancient San Fran

eyes of woeful bone

“prowling in the wilderness to hear the voice crying

in the wilderness, to find the ecstasy of the stars, to find

the dark mysterious secret of the origin of faceless wonderless

crapulous civilization. . .”

Kerouac with a bottle of whisky

weeping to the Void in the gardens of Paradise

old Ferlinghetti Rexroth and Ginsberg

kneeling and drinking, reading and reeling

soft night

(bright midnight)

strung out, best minds of their—

meanwhile Burroughs

searching, ever vigilant

the slums of Mexicali Mexico and Tangiers

for the next fix

& hopping a plane to the

warm soft malleable underbelly

of San Fran. . .

 

Westward was the time

that came naturally

to Steinbeck and Ford and Dos Passos. . .

 

And the hills stretch on

a landscape of the body

butts breasts and thighs

gold and glistening

contours of wheat,

trees billowing

planted in pools of shadow,

and the days run away like wild horses

over the hills,

and the sky

blue as sky

in (Van Gogh’s) Arles. . .

 

Sitting at a table outside a cafe

in North Beach near City Lights

Kerouac Alley Rexroth street

smoking a cigarette and drinking

a Bloody Mary. It is cool here

in the summer and the seaside breeze

blows diligent and it is

difficult to smoke cigarettes,

they go out, just like that,

or they burn

like

Thomas Wolfe and Saroyan and

William Blake and Whitman

even Henry Miller once burned

in the air

thoughts

garlands

and flowers. . .

 

      “Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour.”

 

O bottle

plastic bottle

green bottle

in the depths

blue depths

green depths

subterranean depths

of the Greyhound toilet. . .

O bottle

remnant of some poor writer

long gone

(but not forgotten). . .

Bottle,

you and me,

pal,

you and me. . .

 

“The west is the best.

Get here. . .

we’ll do the rest.”

 

This is the impression

lost

out the window.

 

Hills stretch on and on and on

diminshing

the steep incline

of the sky.

And:

 

“I’ve grown two months older. . .

there’s all that humanity

of bars and burlesque shows. . .

gritty love,

all upsidedown in the void God bless them, but. . .

you and me

forever we know. . .

 

O

ever youthful,

O ever

weeping.”

 

 

 

Appeared in Wild Poets: ‘best of’ (Seattle)



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