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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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
as it reclaims
these lost, insatiable
‘They’ve grown unaccountably
They don’t see I in them
or them in I.
Their blind longing
for the realization of my Mystery
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
The promise deferred.
Inexorably, the deal
A tiny manmade light flickering
in the black emptiness
a caltrop island,
Breath dissolving on a windowpane.
standing on a foundation
of impossible achievement, tears,
How you passed, for a moment,
through the repeating dream.
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,
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
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
The broken resolutions, forgotten promises
The women— the women!— who slip by
Times you say you’ll move away somewhere warmer
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
Sparklers and firecrackers
hissing to death
Shadows of the evening
creeping down telephone poles
a propagation of bright,
tiny islands blinking
in the dark
the lost city
of our prenatal fantasy
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)
∆ Appeared in Wild Poets: Magazine No. 5 “Arson” (Seattle)
∆ Appeared in Wild Poets: ‘best of’ (Seattle)
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
A San Francisco Mythology
plastic whisky bottle
we’re in Fresno
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)
a journey to the end of the night
Celine’s bright midnight
Barstow, the edge of
the drugs have begun
(take hold). . .
(a one two)
three. . .
in San Francisco
following the light
along the buildings
of North Beach
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
strung out, best minds of their—
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,
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
Thomas Wolfe and Saroyan and
William Blake and Whitman
even Henry Miller once burned
in the air
and flowers. . .
“Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour.”
in the depths
of the Greyhound toilet. . .
remnant of some poor writer
(but not forgotten). . .
you and me,
you and me. . .
“The west is the best.
Get here. . .
we’ll do the rest.”
This is the impression
out the window.
Hills stretch on and on and on
the steep incline
of the sky.
“I’ve grown two months older. . .
there’s all that humanity
of bars and burlesque shows. . .
all upsidedown in the void God bless them, but. . .
you and me
forever we know. . .
∆ Appeared in Wild Poets: ‘best of’ (Seattle)