Osip Mandelstam

Country: Russia
Language(s): Russian
And I Was Alive

And I was alive in the blizzard of the blossoming pear,
Myself I stood in the storm of the bird-cherry tree.
It was all leaflike and starshower, unerring, self-shattering power,
And it was all aimed at me.

What is this dire delight flowering fleeing always earth?
What is being? What is truth?

Blossoms rupture and rapture the air,
All hover and hammer,
Time intensified and time intolerable, sweetness raveling rot.
It is now. It is not.

(4 May 1937)
Translated from the Russian by Christian Wiman.


Black Candle

Your girlish shoulders are for blushing,
For blushing under whips, and in dawn’s raw ice to shine.

Your child-like hands are for pushing,
For pushing flatirons and feed sacks, and knotting twine.

Your feet, infant-tender, are for tiptoeing,
Tiptoeing through shattered glass, in the blood-tracked clay.

And I, I am for you, a black candle burning,
Like a black candle I am burning, and dare not pray.

(February 1934)
Translated from the Russian by Christian Wiseman.