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  • Modern Russian Poetry. 1967

Sixth sense

Шестое чувство

O beautiful the wine in love with us!
The good bread in the oven — for us baking!
And that woman, who gave torment and fuss.
Whom now we can enjoy — for just the taking!

But what to do with this rose sunset over
A sky becoming cold as hues disperse.
Where silence and unearthly calm still hover,
What should we do with our immortal verse?

You can’t eat, drink, or kiss sunsets or lines...
The moment runs unchecked and we, hand-wringing,
Are still condemned to overlook the signs
And somehow miss the mark — with our wide swinging.

Just as a boy sometimes watching girls bathing
(Having forgotten all about his games.
Yet innocent of love and love’s behaving)
Is tortured by a strange desire’s flames;

Just as that slippery creature at one time,
Feeling still-unformed wings upon his shoulders,
Roared out his sense of helplessness through slime
And geologic giant ferns and boulders —

So century on century (Lord, quickly?)
Beneath nature and art’s knife our intense
Spirit cries out, our flesh grows faint and sickly —
Trying to birth organs for our sixth sense.

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I know a woman, full of silence, / Her bitter weariness from words, / Dwells in mysterious, blinking eyelids / Their widened pupils, secret worlds. / Her soul is greedily wide open / To copper music of sweet verse. / To life, that’s worldly, pleasant often, / She’s deaf and...

The Red Sea

Greetings, Red Sea, shark soup, / Negro bath, sand cauldron! / Like stone cactus flowers / limestone, not moss, blooms on your cliffs. / / Sea-monsters swept up by the tide lie dying / in anguish, out on your islands / in the burning sand: octopi, tritons, swordfish. / / From Afr...

The Sick Man

Only one thing torments my delirium: / how certain sharp lines go on for ever, / and a bell rings and rings and rings / like a clock marking off eternity. / / Just so, after death, / eyes stare into darkness / (the agonized hope of resurrection) / trying to see familiar visions. / ...


This country could have been paradise: / it’s a den of fire. / We've been advancing for four days, / we’ve not eaten for four days. / / In this strange, bright hour / we don’t need earth’s bread: / the Lord’s Word / is better nourishment. / / The b...

The Cathedral at Padua

Marvellous, and sad - yes, that’s what this temple / is - a joy, a temptation, a threat. / Eyes exhausted with desire / bum in the slits of confessional windows. / / The organ melody rises, falls, / then swells fuller and more terrible, / like blood in dark church-granite veins ...

The Sun of the Spirit

How could we walk in peace, before, / expecting no joy, no disaster, / not dreaming of battles, of flaming retreats, / or the roaring trumpet of victory ? / / How could we - but it’s not too late, / the sun of the spirit bends down to us - / soothing, threatening, it pours / a...