by Osip Mandel’shtam (translated from Russian by Don Mager)

  1. France, as a pity and a favor, again
  2. I ask for your land and honeysuckle,
  1. For the truths of your turtledoves and the deceptions
  2. Of your dwarf vineyards staked up and set apart.
  1. In the lightness of December your pruned air hurts
  2. With its cover of frost — like newly minted coins . . .
  1. But a violet and in prison! with the mind’s descent to bottomlessness!
  2. A song whistles — mocking and careless,—
  1. Where in rage kings were once washed away
  2. From the twisted narrow streets . . .
  1. And now in Paris, Chartres, Arles
  2. Goodly Charlie Chaplin rules —
  1. In an oceanic bowler hat with bewildered precision
  2. He swaggers on the edge with a flower girl . . .
  1. There, with a rose on her breast in a two-towered sweat
  2. The webs of her shawl turning into stone,
  3. It’s a pity the carousal’s appetite for air
  4. Can only go round and round breathing in the city.
  1. Godless woman with a goat’s golden eyes
  2. Incline your neck as you roll your “r’s”
  1. And tease the clumps of stingy roses
  2. With the curve of your gardening shears.
  1. 3 March 1937
Packingtown Review – Vol.12, Fall 2019

Osip Mandel’shtam (1891-1938) was a founding member of the Acmeist movement before the Revolution. In the 1930s he ran afoul of the authorities and was sent to a gulag in Siberia with his wife Nadezhda. They were brought back and banished to “internal exile” in Voronezh where for three years they struggled while he wrote some of his most astonishing poems collected in Voronezh Notebooks, finally published during “Khrushchev thaw” in 1956. In 1938 he was re-sentenced to hard labor and died near Vladivostok.

Don Mager’s nine books include Us Four Plus Four (New Orleans UP), an anthology of translations from eight major Soviet-era poets tracking 85 poems they wrote to the others over 50 years in chronological order. The anthology represents a fascinating conversation in poems. Retired, he has published over 200 poems and translations from German, Czech and Russian. He lives in Charlotte, NC.

  1. Osip Mandel'shtam
    Charlie Chaplinpoetry