from “The Desk”

By Marina Tsvetaeva 1892–1941 Marina Tsvetaeva

New versions from the Russian by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine Read the translator's notes


Fair enough: you people have eaten me,
I—wrote you down.
They’ll lay you out on a dinner table,
me—on this desk.

I’ve been happy with little.
There are dishes I’ve never tried.
But you, you people eat slowly, and often;
You eat and eat.

Everything was decided for us
back in the ocean:
Our places of action,
our places of gratitude.

You—with belches, I—with books,
with truffles, you. With pencil, I,
you and your olives, me and my rhyme,
with pickles, you. I, with poems.

At your head—funeral candles
like thick-legged asparagus:
your road out of this world
a dessert table’s striped cloth.

They will smoke Havana cigars
on your left side and your right;
your body will be dressed
in the best Dutch linen.

And—not to waste such expensive cloth,
they will shake you out,
along with the crumbs and bits of food,
into the hole, the grave.

You—stuffed capon, I—pigeon.
Gunpowder, your soul, at the autopsy.
And I will be laid out bare
with only two wings to cover me.


Late July 1933

Source: Poetry (March 2012).

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This poem originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2012
 Marina  Tsvetaeva

Biography

Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (also Marina Cvetaeva and Marina Tsvetayeva) was born in Moscow. Her father was a professor and founder of the Museum of Fine Arts, and her mother, who died of tuberculosis when Marina was 14, was a concert pianist. At the age of 18 Tsvetaeva published her first collection of poems, Evening Album. During her lifetime she wrote poems, verse plays, and prose pieces; she is considered one of the most . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death

POET’S REGION Russia

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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