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Two Poems by Joseph Brodsky


When a blizzard powders the harbor, when the creaking pine
leaves in the air an imprint deeper than a sled’s steel runner,
what degree of blueness can be gained by an eye? What sign
language can sprout from a chary manner?
Falling out of sight, the outside world
makes a face its hostage: pale, plain, snowbound.
Thus a mollusk stays phosphorescent at the ocean’s floor
and thus silence absorbs all speeds of sound.
Thus a match is enough to set a stove aglow;
thus a grandfather clock, a heartbeat’s brother,
having stopped this side of the sea, still tick-tocks to show
time at the other.


At sunset, when the paralyzed street gives up
hope of hearing an ambulance, finally settling for
strolling Chinamen, while the elms imitate a map
of a khaki-clad country that lulls its foe,
life is gradually getting myopic, spliced,
aquiline, geometrical, free of gloss
or detail—be it cornices, doorknobs, Christ—
stressing silhouettes: chimneys, rooftops, a cross.
And your closing the shutters unleashes the domino
theory; for no matter what size a lump
melts in your throat, the future snowballs each “no”
to coin a profile by the burning lamp.
Neither because there is a lot of guilt
nor because local prices are somewhat steep,
nobody picks this brick pocket filled
with change that barely buys some sleep.

Translated by the author