from Poems: Book 5

Mikhail Eremin

In diligent apprenticeship (Forever?),
To multiply all that which grows,
And, bridling the half-wild thorns,
To weed the fenced out thistles and, fertilizing,
Naturalize the endemics of unknown lands, watching over,
That the carnations not wither under the ashes of fading
And the lilies, with their irrepressible milky lime,
Not flood their curb of modest earth.


Trees, fallen under the axe, or oppressed
By cytosporosis, necroses, and rots, or dead of old age,
Will they resurrect in the fields above asphodels or
Be condemned to be floating riptide timber
In the flood (Where is its source? Where the mouth?) of Styx,
Either huddled in the apron bends of Acheron or
Become drowned in the backwaters of Cocytus,
Or bobble in the anaerobic ooze of Phlegethon?


Is not the reason the moment is uninterruptible,
No matter how wonderful it be,
That time, like a fermentation
Byproduct at the world’s creation,
Accompanies the sun and moon—a day, a month, the year.
Why bend the truth, when it is far more seductive
To offer hypotheses and conjectures, and fantasies
Of time’s reversibility?

Faust (Act 1, Scene 4)

The fox extrapolates where she shall intercept the hare.
Her hungry kits savor expectantly her hunting glory. The rats
Escape, anticipating trouble. Castles and locks
Owe their existence to alertness and alarm. Forefathers
Foreshadow the ruination of their artefacts.
What is clairvoyance?
Is it not an expression of living prescience?
The partial knowledge of Providence permitted to man?


The variegated foliage shall be shed upon the earth,
And with the larch the ochre of pine needles shower,
Charging the mist (From among rains, is it not the most tedious?
Only the drizzle more insufferable). It is well, that in due season,
The first frost smudges the earth with a Hyperborean monochrome,
For which it is predestined in due time to fragment
Into primroses, veronicas, carnations, asters,
And all those post-summer hues.


translated from the Russian by Alex Cigale