from “Poems to Czechoslovakia”

New versions from the Russian by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine
Black mountain

black mountain
blocks the earth’s light.
Time—time—time
to give back to God his ticket.

I refuse to—be. In
the madhouse of the inhumans
I refuse to—live. To swim

on the current of human spines.
I don’t need holes in my ears,
no need for seeing eyes.
I refuse to swim on the current of human spines.

To your mad world—one answer: I refuse.

                                      •

They took—suddenly—and took—openly—
took mountains—and took their entrails,
they took coal, and steel they took,
they took lead, and crystal.

And sugar they took, and took the clover,
they took the West, and they took the North,
they took the beehive, and took the haystack,
they took the South from us, and the East.

Vari—they took, and the Tatras—they took,
they took our fingers—took our friends—

But we stand up—
as long as there’s spit in our mouths!

May 9, 1939

More Poems by Marina Tsvetaeva