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Friday, April 18, 2014

The Night Before the First of June

And while the last notes of the last
Nightingales continue to glide
The pink foam of hawthorn
Vaguely gleams at your bedside,

While the train bridge lies down
Under the wheels like a suicide
And my life flies headlong
Above the river’s black rippled bed—

Sleep in your glade as if under stage lights,
Sleep—this night is shorter than your love.
Sleep in this fairy tale, in this hive
Of nameless night, in the forest of memories.

So this is when I’ve become who I was meant
To be. With each new day, each day is dearer.
With every night, my impatient judgment
Of fate grows more biased and severe.

Translated by Philip Metres and Dmitri Psurtsev

  • Arseny Tarkovsky (1907-1989) was a Russian poet who spent most of his life as a translator, only publishing his own poems after Stalin’s death (beginning in 1962). His work emerges from a visionary sensibility that became his way of forging a Russian art outside of Soviet realism. He was wounded in World War II, lost a leg to gangrene, and wrote some of the most powerful poems about the War.