Leningrad, Osip Mandelstam

moscow4 (1)

This was written in 1930. Soviet poets had to be cryptic. This may not have been cryptic enough…

I’ve returned to my city, with tears too well versed,
And with veins and with childhood’s glands ready to burst.
You’ve returned here – with haste you have swallowed some draughts
Of the fish oil that fuels the river’s light’s shafts!
So December day sooner acknowledge my friend,
When the yolk with the ominous tar finds a blend.
Petersburg! I am simply not ready to die:
You possess my phone number – just give it a try.
Petersburg! I retain an address in my head,
Where location still lingers of voices now dead.
On a grubby back staircase I live. In my head
Sounds the bell that is torn from my flesh, made of lead,
And I wait for dear guests as continues the night
When the sliding of door chains will witness to light.
Я вернулся в мой город, знакомый до слез,
До прожилок, до детских припухлых желез.
Ты вернулся сюда — так глотай же скорей
Рыбий жир ленинградских речных фонарей!
Узнавай же скорее декабрьский денек,
Где к зловещему дегтю подмешан желток.
Петербург! я еще не хочу умирать:
У тебя телефонов моих номера.
Петербург! У меня еще есть адреса,
По которым найду мертвецов голоса.
Я на лестнице черной живу, и в висок
Ударяет мне вырванный с мясом звонок,
И всю ночь напролет жду гостей дорогих,
Шевеля кандалами цепочек дверных.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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