Ilya Kaminsky

"You can't buy me," she wrote in 1932, "That is the whole point. You can buy me only in essence (i.e. my essence). To buy is to buy oneself off. You can't buy yourself off from me. You can buy me only with the whole sky in yourself. A whole sky in which, perhaps, there is no place for me." And, in the earlier poem, she wrote:

To kiss a forehead is to erase worry.
I kiss your forehead.

To kiss the eyes is to lift sleeplessness.
I kiss your eyes.

To kiss the lips is to drink water.
I kiss your lips.

To kiss a forehead is to erase memory.
I kiss your forehead.

That sort of difficulty.  As she confronted herself in her diary (upon return to Russia after almost twenty years of exile), "my difficulty (in writing poems—and perhaps other people's difficulty in understanding them) is in the impossibility of my goal, for example, of using words to express a moan: ah—ah—ah. To express a sound using words, using meanings. So that the only thing left in the ears would be ah—ah—ah. Why such goals?"


During the first year of my deafness, I saw her with a man. She wore a purple scarf knotted around her head. Half-dancing, he placed his head on her breast. And she began to sing. I observed her with devouring attention. I imagined her voice to smell of oranges; I fell in love with her voice.

She was a woman who lived like a conspirator sending contradictory signals. "Do not eat the apple seeds," she threatened me, "Not the apple seeds. The branches will grow from your belly!" She touched my ear, fingering itI know nothing of her husband except for his fatal heart attack in a moving bus. There was no strain on her face, but looking at her, I understood the dignity of grief. Returning from his funeral, she took off her shoes and walked barefoot in the snow.

* * *

Marina Tsvetaeva

by Ilya Kaminsky

 

In each line's strange syllable: she awakes
as a gull, torn
between heaven and earth.

I accept her, stand with her face to face.
-- in this dream: she wears her dress
like a sail, runs behind me, stopping

when I stop. She laughs
as a child speaking to herself:
"soul = pain + everything else."

I bend clumsily at the knees
and I quarrel no more,
all I want is a human window

in a house whose roof is my life.


* * *

Translation and "Marina Tsvetaeva" by Ilya Kaminsky. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author and translator.
 

 

 

 
 

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