• Email
  • Print

With a View of the Sea

Joseph Brodsky, translated from the Russian by Glyn Maxwell and Zakhar Ishov

I

October, and the sea this morning
rests its cheek against the quays;
the pattering upon the awning’s
seeds of the acacia trees,
keeping a beat. The blazing sun
is hoisting up out of the sea
a piercing stare that doesn’t burn,
just as the rowers sculling by
pierce the water, gazing up
at one far snowy mountaintop.

II

Meanwhile a bold sou’westerly
insinuates its fingers through
the fluttered clouds—now the agaves
thrash and every palm tree too
flames in alarm. A prophet sits,
having performed his brief toilette.
Caught unawares creating his
own idol, on the pier he sips
the first black coffee of the day
in a serene déshabillé.

III

After, he leaps, crossing himself,
into the waves! But hand-to-hand
he is defeated; drying off,
he strolls to the newspaper stand,
gets yesterday’s, finds one of many
empty deck chairs. Hulls are rusting
in a row along the jetty.
Cruisers smoke on the horizon.
Seaweed’s drying on the backs
of all the turned heads of the rocks.

IV

Now he leaves the beach behind
and climbs the hillside at a canter,
back to the ark, a place entwined
with bougainvillea, oleander,
grown so deep into the slopes
it seems the hull must spring a leak
for light to give the slightest glimpse
of the blue bay. Inside this ark,
abandoned by the animals,
a table stands and little else.

V

A quill. A pot of ink. The heat.
Linoleum clings to his footsoles….
Words spill out, but only speak
about the past and not the future;
because the author of this verse,
who had an insight obviously
the eagle envied, is these days
discredited officially.
His thirst for prophecy has gone.
He twangs his lyre and sings a song.

VI

To hit the beach out of le saison
(quite apart from being dirt cheap)
is advantageous for this raison:
a man can for a while escape
the brackets of the year, the gates
of prison. Time just sniggers at
your bribe, but Space is hungry. Look,
the eagle on the twenty-kopek
coin was right and for this reason:
money levels every season.

VII

Down the hillside trail the vines
in thin dark rivulets of green.
The women warm their small white homes
with rosy beechwood logs. The evening
rooster crows, and turning one
slow-motion somersault the moon
won’t come to grief upon the glass-flat
surface of the rugged asphalt.
She and all her starry swarm
the bay could swallow with a yawn.

VIII

O when so much has been and gone
behind you—grief, to say the least—
expect no help from anyone.
Board a train, get to the coast.
It’s wider and it’s deeper. This
superiority’s not a thing
of joy especially. Mind you, if
one has to feel as orphans do,
better in places where the view
stirs somehow and cannot sting.

(1969; translated from the Russian by Glyn Maxwell and Zakhar Ishov)

  • Email
  • Print