• Email
  • Print

Poem with a Footnote

To Robert Lowell

Bless
your grave, Mr. President.
You have become clairvoyant.
I shall see things as they are
while I sit and wait for the night.

I’ll bare my head and say
“Bless everything!”

Bless the sound of your waves,
great ocean.
Bless you, plowman of Klin.
Bless
   the temple of San Francisco’s
high levels. As aethereal
And deep as a breath
this once they’ll sigh for me…
the lungs of the nation.
Bless
   your big prick
at night Central Park
rank and thick as an instinct
   reeking of murder
you lie sprawled on your back
   between huge legs of stone—
what now?

Heaven on earth,
bless
your banquet table.
Bless your historical privilege
to hack me in bloody pieces.

Bless the sun itself
that drives the night away, transforms
the maps.
Bless my heart
and millions of hearts that stagger
at a touch of the sun.
You, history, are the moan
   of crucified prophets.
When they come down from the cross
heretics will be burned and lofted skyward.

Bless you, producers of the new
who’re running mad—I could weep!
Bless you, palaces, crumbling in the flood
of the “cultural revolution”—in Florence.
Everything’s sliding apart.

Yet, “Long live everything!”
For the art of creation
is older than the art of killing.

Howling infants are cradled
in the hands of midwives.
They’re the telephone receivers
   of ages that shall be silent.

Bless you,
Hugo,
Arthur Miller’s dog,
a lovely creature.
You’re not a dachshund,
you’re a slipper,
a moccasin with a gaping sole,
shabby with use.
A certain Unknown Being puts you
on his left foot
and shuffles across the floor.
Sometimes he sits in an armchair
and crosses his legs,
then you tilt nose upward
45 degrees,
and everyone thinks
that you’re begging
   a scrap from the table.
Oh Hugo, Hugo…I too am someone’s
   shoe. I feel the Unknown
that is wearing me.
Bless the unknown
that does not exist
yet is!

Bless the good ship that sailed
to discover America.
I am bringing to America
the discovery of the Russian tongue.

In cities, in the maze of parks,
I was the first to sound
the agonizing music of Russia
with a voice that fades in the upper ranges.

It’s not my throat…my heart is lacerated.
America you’re a rhythm.
Bless every fellow-poet
who shall walk in my footsteps!

The poet thrusts his body
like a tolling bell
against the dome of insults.
It hurts. But it resounds.

Dear Robert Lowell, bless
your letter.
It has made me sad.
I’ll weep for a whole day, hating
everything and everybody.
Why should we play their game?
Why should we try to guess
which hand it’s in? Why ask
a fool to show his credentials?
You speak of today, but this…
game is old.

All around us—piles of shit!
and still, real pearls exist.
All around—a maximum-security prison…
and still you must sing like a child.
Bless the darkness around you.
That’s why you’re a poet.
As the night presses inward
you radiate beams of light.

You bless
but are not blessed.

And you, my plane, where are you flying
in this darkness?
Sleep, dear,
breathe more deeply, more evenly.
Peace to your tormented spirit!

On the river
as on the dear straps of your watch
the tiny city dwindles,
a twinkling dial.

For you forgot to take it off again.
The watch shines, and ticks.
I’ll unfasten it gently, gently
   so as not to frighten your sleep away.
I’ll wind it,
and put it on the left,
feeling my way in the dark
where the night table must be.

FOOTNOTE

San Francisco is Kolómenskoye*
a light cupped on a slope.
It’s as high as the water
drawn from a well is cold.

I love you, San Francisco,
I can see a dissolving
web, a frontispiece
brimming with height.

At night the foggy cubicles
are colored with gold…
inhaling the cancerous red smoke
like invisible smokers.

Cut out of the sky
and nailed to the bridges
is my remorse for failure
to keep my promised dreams.

Architecture, the past…
let me light my cigarette from you.
My lips, drained by love,
shall inhale at the highest level.

Down there, by the hotel…
black limousines in rows, like shoes,
as if the angels had flown in a hurry
leaving their black galoshes…

We are not angels.
The devil in the tax department
slaps on a stamp and doesn’t give a damn…
Want me, San Francisco.
Want me, Kolómenskoye.

  1. *

    Translators’ note: The church of the Ascension which stands on a hill in Kolómenskoye near Moscow, is famous for its great height, unrelieved whiteness, and its single steeple.

  • Email
  • Print