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Snakes shed their skins
and their souls grow mellow.
We do it differently, we change
souls, not bodies.

Like an Amazon, Memory leads life
like a horse on a rope:
Tell me, Memory, who lived
in this body before I came.

The first one: homely, thin,
loving only the twilight of trees,
and dead leaves, a witch-child
who stopped the rain with a word.

His friends: a chestnut dog
and a tree. Oh Memory, Memory,
don’t try to tell the world
that child was me.

And next: this one loved the south wind,
and every noise rang lyres in his head;
life was his girl, his friend, he said,
and the rug he stood on — that was the world.

I hate his guts. He wanted
to be God, to be king;
he hung a poet’s shingle
on die door of this my silent house.

Ah, but the one who chose freedom, him
I love, the sailor, the marksman:
the sea sang to him,
the clouds were jealous.

His tent rose tall,
his mules ran strong and hard;
he drank the sweet air like wine,
there where white men never walk.

But Memory, from one year to the next
you’re feebler: Who’s that, next, the one
who traded freedom
for sacred war, long-awaited war ? Is that him ?

The one who discovered hunger,
bad dreams, an endless, endless path —
but Saint George touched him twice
and never bullets.

I am the stubborn architect
of this dark temple,
I am jealous of our Father’s heavenly
glory, and His earthly glory.

Flames roast my heart, will roast my heart
until the new Jerusalem’s
clear, pure walls rise
in Russian fields.

And then, a strange wind will blow
— and Heaven will rain a terrible light,
a sudden-blooming Milky Way,
a dazzling planet-garden.

And I will see a stranger, but
not his hidden face — but I’ll know,
I’ll know, when I see a lion running behind him
and an eagle up over his head.

I’ll shout, I’ll scream — but who could help me?
My soul will die.
Snakes shed their skins, we change
souls, not bodies.

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