Arseny Tarkovsky, translation by Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev

[O if only I could rise, regain memory and consciousness…]

Listen to Dimitri Psurtsev read this piece:

O if only I could rise, regain memory and consciousness,
And at the most difficult hour to bless the labor
That reared the meadows and nurtured the orchards,
And one last time swallow the crystal brain of water
From the concave dish
Of a downy leaf.

Give me one drop, my mortal grass,
Give me an oath to inherit speech,
To grow a larynx and not spare any blood,
To forget myself, and tearing up my word-hoard,
Burn your parched mouth with my fire.


О, только бы привстать, опомниться, очнуться
И в самый трудный час благословить труды,
Вспоившие луга, вскормившие сады,
В последний раз глотнуть из выгнутого блюдца
Листа ворсистого
Хрустальный мозг воды.

Дай каплю мне одну, моя трава земная,
Дай клятву мне взамен – принять в наследство речь,
Гортанью разрастись и крови не беречь,
Не помнить обо мне и, мой словарь ломая,
Свой пересохший рот моим огнем обжечь.


Arseny Tarkovsky lived from 1907 until 1989, and spent most of his life as a noted translator of Turkmen, Georgian, Armenian, Arabic, and other Asian poets. The last of the great twentieth-century Russian poets, still virtually unknown in the West, Tarkovsky reinvented Russian poetry by returning to its traditions. This poem is part of Metres and Psurtsev's book-manuscript, I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky. Philip Metres has written a number of books, most recently the chapbook abu ghraib arias (2011), winner of the 2012 Arab American Book Award. His work has appeared in Best American Poetry and has garnered two NEA fellowships, a Watson Fellowship, and four Ohio Arts Council grants. He teaches at John Carroll University in Cleveland. For more information, visit Dimitri Psurtsev is a Russian poet and translator of British and American writers and poets. His two books of poetry, Ex Roma Tertia and Tengiz Notebook, were published in 2001. Dimitri teaches translation at Moscow State Linguistic University and lives with his wife Natalia and daughter Anna outside Moscow.