Marina Tsvetaeva, “Bound for Hell”

 

 

Hell, my ardent sisters, be assured,
Is where we’re bound; we’ll drink the pitch of hell—
We, who have sung the praises of the lord
With every fiber in us, every cell.

We, who did not manage to devote
Our nights to spinning, did not bend and sway
Above a cradle—in a flimsy boat,
Wrapped in a mantle, we’re now borne away.

Every morning, every day, we’d rise
And have the finest Chinese silks to wear;
And we’d strike up the songs of paradise
Around the campfire of a robbers’ lair,

We, careless seamstresses (our seams all ran,
Whether we sewed or not)—yet we have been
Such dancers, we have played the pipes of Pan:
The world was ours, each one of us a queen.

First, scarcely draped in tatters, and disheveled,
Then plaited with a starry diadem;
We’ve been in jails, at banquets we have reveled:
But the rewards of heaven, we’re lost to them,

Lost in nights of starlight, in the garden
Where apple trees from paradise are found.
No, be assured, my gentle girls, my ardent
And lovely sisters, hell is where we’re bound.

Translated from the Russian by Stephen Edgar 

 

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“Poet as Housewife,” Elisabeth Eybers

Always a broom leaned against a wall,
meals never on time, if they come at all.

Days without dates through which she moves
empty and stubborn, slightly confused.

Ironing hung dejectedly over a chair,
gestures that come from who-knows-where.

Old letters unanswered, piled together,
papers and pills stuffed deep in a drawer.

Thankful to be part of your heart’s great whole
yet devoted to the limits of her own small skull.

O orderly biped, take heed,
leave her alone—let her read.

 — “Poet as Housewife,” Elisabeth Eybers, translated from the Afrikaans by Jacquelyn Pope

From “Autobiography of Red”, Anne Carson

And you are an atheist too? said Geryon.

I am a skeptic. You doubt God?  Well more to the point I credit God

with the good sense to doubt me.

What is mortality after all but divine doubt flashing over us?  For an instant God

suspends assent and POOF! we disappear.

It happens to me frequently.  You disappear?  Yes and then come back.

Moments of death I call them.  Have an olive,

he added as the waiter’s arm flashed between them with a plate.

Thank you, said Geryon

and bit into an olive.  The pimiento stung his mouth alive like a sudden sunset.

Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red, p. 94

“Perhaps,” Wen Yiduo

Perhaps you have wept and wept, and can weep no more.
Perhaps. Perhaps you ought to sleep a bit;
then don’t let the night hawk cough, the frogs
croak, or the bats fly.

Don’t let the sunlight open the curtain onto your eyes.
Don’t let a cool breeze brush your eyebrows.
Ah, no one will be able to startle you awake:
I will open an umbrella of dark pines to shelter your sleep.

Perhaps you hear earthworms digging in the mud,
or listen to the root hairs of small grasses sucking up water.
Perhaps this music you are listening to is lovelier
than the swearing and cursing noises of men.

Then close your eyelids, and shut them tight.
I will let you sleep, I will let you sleep.
I will cover you lightly, lightly with yellow earth.
I will slowly, slowly let the ashes of paper money fly.

— “Perhaps,” Wen Yiduo, translated by Arthur Sze (2001)