Excerpt from Courage
To die of a bullet is nothing to dread,
To find you are roofless is easy to bear;
And all is endured, O great language we love:
It is you, Russian tongue, we must save, and we swear
We will give you unstained to the sons of our sons.
To The Memory of My Little Neighbor
In Leningrad, Valia Smirnov
They have dug trenches in the garden
And the lights are out.
O Petersburg orphans,
O my children!
Under the earth, we breathe badly,
Pain beats in our ears,
Above the whistling of the shell
We hear the crying of the child.
Knock with your little fist and I will open.
I have always opened my door.
I am far away now, beyond the high mountain,
Beyond the desert, beyond the wind and the heat
But I will never abandon you . . .
I haven't heard your last cry.
You haven't asked for your bread.
Bring me, then, a little branch of maple
Or several stems of green grass,
Like those you brought last spring.
Bring me a little water in your hand,
Pure cold water from our Neva,
And from your small gold head
I will wash all trace of blood.
April 23, 1942
Dead corpse along city street
This rude century
Turned me aside like a river
And this unintended life
Flows in new channels
Past strange banks.
What landscapes have I missed?
What curtains rose and fell
Without me? What friends
Did I never meet?
What skylines not see
That might have brought my tears?
I know only this one city,
I could find it by touch in my sleep . . .
How many poems did I not write?
They hang in the air around me, a weird choir,
And some day
May suffocate me . . .
I knew beginnings and ends
And life after the end, and something else,
Something I must no longer think about . . .
An ordinary woman
Took my unique place
Used my real name
Left me a pseudonym
With it I do
what I can.
Terrible! It is not in my own tomb
I shall lie . . .
But if back there I could have known
this "now" of my life
I would have known
What it is
to be jealous . . .Leningrad, 1944