ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Translations from Marina Tsvetaeva, by Mary Jane White


* * *
Time I got the message.
In my deaf stupor — time
For those laws of the sublime
Life does telegraph.

Uncertainly — on my shoulders,
My head crowned and pushed on.
Uncertainly — as a solitary ray,
Unnoticed in daylight.

As if from a slack string—
Dust — shaken from my winding-
Sheet.  Tribute to my terror
And to my dust’s to-dust.

Ardently arbitrary
Time— of silent requests.
Time of our uprooted brethren.
Time of the world’s orphaning.

11 June 1922


* * *
Fierce valley,
Valley of love.
Hands:  white with salt.
Mouth:  black with blood.

A left-breasted Amazon’s
Shaft just missed my temple.
Yes — my head on a stone —
Life, who could love you?

To hell with my plans!  To hell with my lies!
Here:  as a lark, there:  as honeysuckle,
Here:  by the handfuls:  all pitched-out along
With my savageries — and silences,
With my rainbows glimpsed through tears,
With my pilfering, my prevarications . . .

Life, yes, you are a darling!
And greedy too!
You leave your bite-mark
On my right shoulder.

Chirping in darkness . . .
With the birds I rouse myself!
To leave my own cheerful mark
On your chronicle.

12 June 1922


* * *
Through all the tedious tasks of the day,
During all your arduous convulsions upon her,
You must let fall a few amiable trochees
Of mine, of me, your manly mistress.

Of my sternness’ bitter edge,
Of my slight shyness’ latent heat,
And of my telegraphic stroke,
Whose name is still — distance.

Same unearthed junk, except:  give me and mine,
Same jealousies, except these, the mundane,
Same verities,— except that in extremis
You are still --- a Doubting Thomas.

My dear boy!  I swear on the grey hair of your predecessors:
I’m a refugee, no one to take under your own roof!
So, long may the left-breasted Amazon’s hammerings
Fall upon your most simplistic ends!

Perhaps, amid her twittering and small exchanges
In the eternal strictures of her femininities —
You will call to mind my hand with no rights
Still in its manly sleeve.

My mouth, which seeks no financial gain,
Nor any claim, that might follow later,
My eyes, that manage without lids, without blinking,
To examine still:  the light, of this world.

15 June 1922

Mary Jane White: MFA in Poetry, University of Iowa Writers' Workshop
National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Poetry
National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Translation (to translate Tsvetaeva)
Bread Loaf Scholar in Poetry
Bread Loaf Scholar in Translation
Squaw Valley Scholar in Poetry
Translation contributor to Russian Poetry: The Modern Period, A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Eckerd College “Writers in Paradise” Scholar in Poetry

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