No. 1 - Year 8 - 12/2017
Literary Translation

God, Factories, Correspondence

DOI: 10.15291/sic/



Face without aspect.
Serenity. —Charm.
All who share flesh
In you are rehearsed.

Like fallen leaves,
Like loose gravel.
All who make outcry
In you are silenced.

Rime grown over rust—
Over blood—over steel.
All who lie facedown
In you are risen.

1 October 1922


Beggars’ and doves’
Lonely run of scales.
These would be your
Clothes laid out over
A run of trees?

Groves’, copses’.
Books and temples
Returned to us—you rise up.
Like a secret escort
Pine forests rush by:
—We hurry! —And won’t let you!

Using a goose foot
He christened the earth to dream.
Even as an aspen
He rushed by—and pardoned her:
Even for having a son!

Beggars sang:
—Dark, O, dark are the forests!
Beggars sang:
—The last cross is cast off!
God is risen from the churches!

4 October 1922


O, there’s no fastening him
To your symbols and cares!
He slips through the least chink,
Like the sveltest gymnast...

By drawbridges and
Migratory flocks,
By telegraph poles
God—escapes us.

O, there’s no schooling him
To stay and accept fate!
In the settled muck of feeling
He—is a grey ice floe.

O, there’s no catching him!
Set out on a homely saucer,
God—is no tame begonia
Left to bloom at a window!

Under a vaulted roof all
Waited the judgment of their Master.
Whether poets or pilots—
They all despaired.

Since he’s one on the run—who moves.
Since the great starry book
Of All: from Alpha to Omega—
Is a trace of his cloak, at best.

5 October 1922

About Factories

They stand in the laborer’s shadow
As smoke-blackened blocks.
The curls of a moving heaven
Toss now above their soot.

Into the lonely vapor of a tea-room
A greasy peaked-cap shuffles.
These outskirts’ last smokestack,
A final trumpet, clamors for justice.

Smokestack! Trumpet! From knit brows
A last blast: we are still here!
What death-sentence is this
Last complaint, this final trumpet!

How deeply into your velvet satiety
Their pitiful sounds sink their teeth!
With what buried-aliveness
And dragging-out to slaughter!

And God?—Up to his neck in smoke,
Won’t intercede! We wait in vain!
On him—above beds in hospitals
And prisons, he is tacked up.

In mutilation! Of the living flesh!
As it was and as it will be—to
The end.
—All the singing of the rails,
Where every despair comes to roost:

Factory! Factory! Because it’s called
A factory, this black flock lifting.
Get used to the despair of factory
Smokestacks, trumpets—because

The factory calls. And no intercessor
Will come for you then,
When over the last city
The last smokestack, a final trumpet, begins to roar.

23 September 1922

By Correspondence

That Castalian current,
Reciprocity, is not blocked!
By correspondence: beyond my eye
Lies, a larger reality.

Beyond calling, beyond seeing
Like a certain long la
Between my mouth and temptation
A mile of distance...

Blessed are the longitudes,
The latitudes of oblivions and strata!
Whose expanse moves into you
Like a note, like a moan

Prolonging itself in you,
Like an echo of a granite heart
Beating into you:
Don’t look and don’t listen and don’t be—

Not that I need it in black
And white—in chalk on a board!
Nearly beyond range
Of my soul, beyond range of ennui—

... As a literary conceit
The final card is dealt.
Expanse, expanse
Now you are—a blank wall!

4 August 1923

Note About Contributor(s)

Marina Tsvetaeva

Marina Tsvetaeva (1982-1941) was a Russian poet, born in Moscow, much admired by Joseph Brodsky, who stated in 1978: “Well, if you are talking about the twentieth century, I’ll give you a list of poets. Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva (and she is the greatest one, in my view. The greatest poet in the twentieth century was a woman.)” The poems translated here were written while Tsvetaeva was living in exile in Prague, where she lived from 1922 to 1925, before moving on to Paris. She eventually returned to the Soviet Union just before World War II, where she committed suicide, having lost her husband to the KGB, believing she had lost her daughter to the Gulag, and leaving behind a teenage son, who did not survive military service in the war. Her daughter, Alya, emerged from the Gulag late in life and did much to preserve her mother’s legacy.

Mary Jane White

Mary Jane White is a poet and translator from Amen Lake, Deer River, Minnesota. She earned an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, received NEA Fellowships in 1979 and 1985 in both poetry and translation, and was twice awarded writing scholarships to Bread Loaf (1979, 2016) and to Squaw Valley Community of Writers (2006). Her book Starry Sky to Starry Sky (1988) is available from Holy Cow! Press, and it contains translations of Marina Tsvetaeva which first appeared as a cover feature in The American Poetry Review. Mary Jane White’s recent Tsvetaeva translations include: New Year’s, an Elegy for Rilke, a chapbook from Adastra Press (Massachusetts); “Poem of the Hill” in the Summer 2007 issue of The New England Review; “Poem of the End” in the Winter 2008 issue of The Hudson Review, reprinted in two anthologies, From a Terrace in Prague (Prague 2011) and Poets Translate Poets (Syracuse 2013).