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At the Green Cabaret Five In the Evening

ISSUE:  Spring 1996

For eight days I wore out my shoe leather
On graveled roads, and came to Charleroi,
The Green Cabaret. I ordered bread and butter,
And ham . . . I’d prefer it cold I told her.

Happy, I stretched my legs under the table
Which was green; looked at the simple stories
On the tapestry. And it was adorable
When the girl with big breasts and lively eyes—

That one, it wouldn’t be a kiss that scared her!—
Laughing, appeared with my bread and butter
And the ham, warm, on a colored plate.

Ham, rosy and white, that is flavored
With garlic, and a mug with a foaming head,
Gold in a ray of sunlight, falling late.

Arthur Rimbaud
Translated by Louis Simpson


When the gobs spat by flaming cannon
Whistle all day beneath a clear blue sky,
And the King cracks jokes as he looks on,
And red or green battalions march and die;

While a terrifying, pounding madness
Turns tens of thousands into smoking garbage
In the grass, in summer, in your gladness,
Nature, who made these men in His image!

There is a God, who laughs at silk and linen,
Altars, incense, and gold chalices,
Who falls asleep when choirs sing His praises,

And wakes when all the mothers shuffle in
With their old black bonnet and their grief,
And give him a big penny tied in a kerchief.

Arthur Rimbaud
Translated by Louis Simpson


A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
Some day I shall speak of your genesis:
A, corset black and hairy with flies
Heaped to bursting on atrocious smells,

Dark gulfs; E, candor of steamship and tent,
Spears of proud glaciers, white kings, shivering
I, purples, spit blood, beautiful lips
That laugh in anger or drunkenly repent;

U, cycles, divine vibrations of green seas,
Peace of pastures dotted with animals,
Lines that alchemy prints in studious faces;

O, supreme trumpet full of strange, harsh sounds,
Silences traversed by worlds and angels;
O Omega, His eyes’ violet rays!

Arthur Rimbaud
Translated by Louis Simpson


My light tread
—A sign of clear conscience—
My light tread,
My ringing song—

God placed me alone
In the midst of the big world.
—You are not a woman but a bird,
Therefore—fly and sing.

19 October 1918

*    **    *

The garden is blooming, the garden is fading,
The wind of meetings blew, and the wind of partings.
Of all the rites, I honor this one:
The kissing of hands.

Cities stand, and houses.
Young women were given beauty
To go mad and to drive mad
Cities. And houses.

In the world the music sounds from all windows.
And Moses’ bush blooms and blooms.
Of all the laws I honor this one:
The kissing of lips.

12 December 1917

*    **    *

Nights without a loved one—and nights
With one unloved, and big stars
Over a hot head, and arms,
Stretched out to Him—
Who never was—and won’t be,
Who cannot be—and must be . . .

And the tear of a child mourning a hero,
And the tear of a hero mourning a child,
And huge mountains of rock
On the chest of the one who must come down . . .

I know all that was, and all that will be,
I know the whole deaf-and-dumb mystery,
That in the dark and inarticulate
Human language is called—Life.


*    **    *

At the curl of the eyelashes,
Bold and innocent,
The golden tan,
And the big mouth—
At all that short-lived boyishness
A man stared
In the night, in a streetcar.

The night—black,
And black are the child’s eyes,
But the man’s are blacker.
—Ah!—to grab him, to scream:
Come along! You’re mine!
The blood running in your dark veins is mine.

—You will kiss and sing,
Like no one else in the world!
Women will love you
To death.

Ah, and to whisper, carrying the child in his arms
        in the big forest,
In the big world,
To whisper over him that strange word:—Son!

30 August 1916.

Marina Tsvetaeva
Translated by Nina Kossman


I give you a present, an iron ring:
Insomnia— delight—and hopelessness.
So you won’t look girls in the eyes,
So you’ll forget even the word: tenderness.

So your head, with its errant curls,
Like a frothy goblet, you’ll lift into space,
So this iron ornament will make you
Into coal—into dust—and ashes.

When to your soothsayer’s curls
Love itself clings, like red-hot coal,
Then be silent and press to your lips
The iron ring on your dark finger.

Here’s a talisman for you against red lips,
Here’s the first link in your chain armor—
So that in the storm of days, alone,
You’ll stand, like God in his iron circle!

March 1919

*    **    *

The heavy brow is bending, bending . . .
Bending like grain, waiting for the reaper.
Friend! Indifference is a bad school!
It hardens the heart.

A reaper is merciful: he reaps and ties,
The field again will grow with grass . . .
But the indifferent will be punished by God.
Terrible to tread on a living soul!

Friend! Unlived tenderness stifles!
Love me a pennyworth, I’ll accept!
Indifferent friend! So terrible to hear
The black midnight in an empty home!

July 1918

Marina Tsvetaeva
Translated by Nina Kossman


It’s night again,
    the tenth night already.
The poplars today, too, let
        their hair down for the evening,
and the coupled braces of the garden gate are blanketed in
It’s so silent,
        as though someone were writing
            a poem about somebody dying.
It’s so silent,
as though someone dying were writing a poem.
I should be rushing
    along now on a night express somewhere
            between Belgrade and Fiume,
        following, on my own secret mission,
    history’s silent passenger
    through the death-combed countryside:
what does he write, what map does he sketch
    for subsequent sufferings,
and through it all to gaze at the Black Madonna silhouette
    of the Karst Mountains,
but I’m just sitting alone, leaning against the wall,
    as if there hadn’t been a train yet,
no history, no diligent dream,
only your sunken, sick eyes shone darkly
            on the floor
from the compass’s four points.

It’s night again,
    the tenth night already.
It’s so silent,
    as though someone were writing
        a poem about somebody dying.
It’s so silent,
    as though someone dying were writing a a poem.

Ssandor Csoori
Translated by Len Roberts and Anette Marta


The beer, the wine are foaming,
the bottles on the garden table grow long shadows,
and our hands grow shadows too.
Under the lit leaves
the day is ending for good,
in tiny bits life’s also coming to an end.
We’re together again, like honeymooners
on a cruise boat in the summery ocean
and we drink, drink, do not ask what’s happened
since morning and for years,
we sleep, awaken, a mosquito buzzes at the backs of our
and the memory of soft tangos caresses
as though pale ghosts of newsreels
tiptoed below the apple trees.
Don’t move!—a gunpowdered voice whispers from the past,
and half the host’s face
is suddenly cleft by a shrapnel shred,
and dozens of ladybirds quickly swirl
around his planed neck.

This is the moment
when the dark reddens
and my head begins to swell again—
this is the moment
when I have to drink even though my stomach churns,
        like a character in a play by Chekhov
and I have to stare for hours at leaves that drop into my
this is the moment when my cushiony stories about us
come to an end
and even in the mouths of dogs that hold their heads
high I can see severed human hands
and long strips of gauze unwinding from wounds
in the provisional hospital’s garden,
it’s raining and the wounds are soaked,
the war’s chrysanthemums, crushed into the earth, soaked,
my infant and elderly hair soaked—
this is the moment I can scrutinize only my sealed eyes,
the moment I no longer have a home I can call my own.

Ssandor Csoori
Translated by Len Roberts and Anette Marta


There hadn’t been a war yet,
and these meaningless stones and beams weren’t here:
ruins branded with birthmarks of destruction—
Up on the cellar’s forehead, a sundial flickered.
Summer was one long day here,
my life was one long day here.
I sat on a cherry branch that swayed, on winds stretched out
    like wires,
and I can’t really even remember:
whether I was a boy or a bird.

There hadn’t been a war yet,
and I had no dead lying like rag dolls
among time’s rubble—
Sundaying lads drank the wild nova wine
and watched the incomplete Moon: a heavenly copper battle-ax
a highwayman whacks into the beam of the sky.

There hadn’t been a war yet,
and I didn’t have to live entranced
by a single worry and a single revenge—
In the eyes of the deer, the Sun swam,
and the earth had a beautiful name,
a childlike, beautiful name.

Quince-yellow hill, mockingbirds and cellars,
throughout my era, the red vine-shoots glimmer.
Once again, everywhere, it is summer,
but this, already, is another time—
I’m searching for echoes and friends, to survive.

Ssandor Csoori
Translated by Len Roberts and Laszlo Vertes

RICARDO REIS (Fernando Pessoa)

Don’t clap your hands before beauty,
Which isn’t meant to be felt too much.
    Beauty doesn’t pass.
    It’s the shadow of the gods.

Statues represent the gods
Because statues are calm and eternal:
    The Fates do not spin them
    A short black thread.

Jupiter thunders in accord with cold laws,
And on certain nights Diana appears,
    According to the laws
    Of her calm shadow.

What we call laws of how the gods act
Are merely the calm that the gods have.
    The laws are not over them:
    They’re the life they desire.

*    **    *

Your dead gods tell me nothing I need
To know. Without any love or hatred
    I dismiss the Crucifix
    From my way of being.

What do I have to do with the creeds
Which the Christ would teach to me, a Latin?
    With the sun I have fellowship
    And not with these truths.

They may be valid. But I was only given
One vision of the things that exist on earth,
    And an uncertain mind,
    And the knowledge that we die.

*    **    *

How great a sadness and bitterness
Drowns our tiny lives in chaos!
    How often adversity
    Cruelly overwhelms us!

Happy the animal, anonymous to itself,
Which grazes in green fields and enters
    Death as if it were home;
    Or the learned man who, lost

In science, raises his futile, ascetic
Life above our own, like smoke
    Which lifts its disintegrating arms
    To the nonexistent heavens.

14 June 1926


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