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Memory

Память

Only serpents ever shed their skin,
To give their souls enough time to grow old.
We, alas, are not like snakes within:
It's not our body changing, but our soul.

Mem’ry, with your giantess’ hand,
Drag me through this life as by a halter,
Telling tales about the old command
Before I came along, his ways to alter.

The first one was by gloomy groves beguiled,
Thin and ugly, drawn to the absurd.
A fallen leaf, a savage voodoo child,
Who could stop a rainstorm with his word.
In a wood, that’s right, a russet mongrel –
That's the one he took to be his buddy
Mem’ry, try, you will not find the signal
Or convince the world that that was me.

The second, drawn by warm winds to discover
The music of the lyre in every flurry;
Professed his roving ways his only lover;
In the world, for him, was not a worry.
I don’t like him at all – and he should know it –
He wanted to become a sovereign,
Hung the ostentatious sign of poet
Above the door, where silence reigns within.

The one I love is freedom’s only daughter,
To the lodestone’s calling ever zealous –
Oh, to her so clearly sang the water,
And of her the clouds were always jealous.
On the high ground where she pitched her tent –
Horses, ever frisky, ever strong –
Like sweet wine, inhaled the mountain scent
That drew her out into an unknown song.

Mem’ry, you get stronger very seldom,
Was this him or someone else before,
Bartering his wanton, cheerful freedom
For the long-awaited holy war?
Often by the pangs of hunger scorched,
In restless dreams along an endless road;
By St. George not once but twice was touched;
Bullets whizzed but left his chest unscarred.

An obstinate and sullen architect I am,
My tabernacle skulking in the dark,
Jealous of the glory of the Father, Ham;
In heaven, and on earth who built an ark;
Whose heart shall be an ever burning flame
Until the day when they rise up, so clearly,
The mighty walls of New Jerusalem
Upon the native land I love so dearly.

Then a freakish wind shall blow so scuddingly,
Across the sky shall spill an awful light,
From the Milky Way that blossoms suddenly
Into a stellar garden of delight.
Appearing then before me, in rapport,
The wayfarer, obscured – I understand –
Now I see the lion in his spoor,
And the eagle, flying to his hand.

I shout out loud ... but who can now pitch in
To save the one for whom this death knell tolls?
Only serpents ever shed their skin;
It's not our bodies changing, but our souls.

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