No. 4 & 5


Alexey Purin  

Translated from the Russian by  Richard McKane  




I suspect that in paradise 
there are signs ‘To San Marco’ 
and the rain, and the gold ball 
on Dogana di Mare soaring brightly, 
and the propeller twisting the stream 
into blissfulness, flooded to the brim – 

and there it is neither too late nor too early, 
as with the glass blowers of Murano, 
to dry the lyric fabric.


The splash of warm waves and pigeons 
changes five times a day 
on the Piazza. Here you have to get lost 
and go astray. In fair weather and foul – 
here Arion is on the pedestal supported by 
a dolphin over the perfidious abyss: 
leave it in a cooling-tower giving off steam, 
a double rhyme scheme, 
in the opening between two columns.


The scrolls of columns, the echoes of feet of poetry 
and the sea-foaming veins of Aphrodite…
Not photographs and views 
but the measured gallop of waves.
Life goes on: a condom 
will float in the carved shadow of a gondola 
and Poseidon from the depths shakes 
the luster of the Venetian school.


The rain is in place, there's no need 
for paintings in frames and old museums.
Wander to where there are less gawpers, 
here the edge of the sea is splashing, 
stroll on, (you are incurable, and grappa 
won't save you) look, 
your mouth open wide, 
at sky covered in grey seraphs.


Here the pale blue domes, 
doubling and rhyming, unite 
two elements, like lines of poems 
and the double of a lazy oar; 
and float away, scarcely 
taking their ghost on board.
And look, our little boat 
is already mooring by San Michaele.


Look again, Brodsky, our favourite shade 
has got into the vaporetto in the dark, 
(here, as before the division of light 
and dark, the day is not yet created, 
but in a moment the crafty glass-blower 
will blow the sun from smoke) 
and the Muse, whose thought cannot be tracked, 
will hurry barefoot after the shade.


The nestling of the sleepy Muses 
and the life-loving cemetery, 
you are only spirits not food, 
you are not shackles but a magnet.
Here the words and senses are blown 
like glass, fame dozes in the dock.
The Amstel and Neva flow into 
your dark channels.


If you think about it, you are not passion, 
not death, not a mask, not the make-up 
of an actress… (will you sink? Look at the rats – 
they will not let you be wrecked!)
If you listen in, you are love, 
but in unprecedented measure…
A little bridge over the canal – 
over Thomas Mann’s Visla? – raises an eyebrow.


The treasure of adolescent failures 
and old comforting, 
(smoking a Cuban cigar 
a rich man rocks in a gondola, 
to the voicelesssness of barcaroles 
and the slow sweep of oars).
A character lies here on the executioner's block 
and the sea smoothes out both floor and sex.


Ying and yang breathe like an amphibian,
Rialto coupled by torment, 
you gratify the eye not like coloured glass, 
but like a tear, already flowing beyond 
the border of the passionate, earthly life; 
and it seems: if you open the window a little 
the dream will disappear… But 
we will come back to life in it again, God willing.



The copyright of 
everything published 
here remains 
with the authors.


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