A Gray Day

By Elena Shvartz 1948–2010 Elena Shvartz

Translated from the Russion by Stephanie Sandler Read the translator's notes

I spoke in a hurry, in a nervous hush,
Because the time was short—
The lightning was shuddering,
Slowing down, running.

Or was that my blood,
The quiet diminishing of daily life?
It’s time for me to go forth
Into Your tiny mustard seed.

In the house of my Father, everything is fading,
In the house of the Father, all the angels are crying,
Because the anguish of a jaded, exhausted horse
Sometimes finds its way even unto them.

One gray day, I was alive on this earth,
And amid the mist of day—in triumph—
The Spirit may approach and look
So that you will see Him, without seeing.

And, so, celebrate the meager light,
Curse not the twilight.
If Christ is to visit us
It will be on such pitiful days as these.

I was thinking: God has abandoned me,
So, what of it—he is a priceless ray of light,
Or a thin needle in the haystack of man. And cruel.
I have turned away from him—torment me no more.
But which of us is more cruel? More to be feared?
The one who has no body, of course.
He has made us endless, vast—
So that our grief will know no bounds.

Providence, 2001

Source: Poetry (June 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2011


Elena Shvarts published sixteen books of poetry and prose, plus a four-volume collected works during her lifetime. She was a major figure in the Leningrad underground and became widely known and translated after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Religion, Faith & Doubt

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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