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Poem

Osip Mandelstam, translated from the Russian by Beatrice Stillman

Accept for joy from these, my outstretched hands,
A little sunlight and a little honey,
Persephone’s bees commanded us to do this.

An unmoored boat can never be unloosed,
Nor sound of shadow shod in fur be heard,
Nor terror of life’s forest overcome.

It’s only kisses which are left to us,
As furry as those little shaggy bees
That, darting from their hive, expire and die.

They rustle in the night’s transparent thickets,
Their home: deep-sleeping forest of Taygetos,
Their food is mint, and honey-balm, and time.

Take then from me this savage gift, for joy,
My dry, plain necklace fashioned of dead bees
Transmuting honey back again to sunlight.
November 1920

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