A Letter from Zürau

Marina Eskina

Dreams about mice bode despair. The horde buries
the cat, then envelops the horse from head to hoof,
and the rider gallops astride mice. This carries
on many times a night — I've had enough.

By dawn, I'm done. What drives me mad is their bustle,
rustle, ruffle, rumple, overshoot, undershoot,
rattle of little bodies, the fuss, the tussle —
on the table are droppings, my shoes are well chewed.

In the morning there are three dots on the page
where yesterday I put a period or a question mark.
As if again the family were around at that age
when I was a boy, sent to sleep in the dark,

in the dark about exculpations, letters, piques.
What a shame. It's scary in dreams. A slice
of light beneath the closed door. This voice that speaks
to me is Josephine — the queen of mice.

Get some cats — that would probably do the deed.
Signing deeds, sentencing — as a judge I'm poor.
Then in reproach to me the cats will breed,
countlessly, until I can't take it anymore.

translated from the Russian by Ian Singleton