Speaking in Tongues
Scribbling In Voices

Marina Tsvetayeva

 Translated by Alex Sitnitsky


Two Songs



To one, whose craft is parting, fire
Simmering down — is naught! A wave
Which surge upon and flood entirely —
Another one — would sweep away.
With ire servile I would not bother
To crawl cripplingly, my dear,
I — who’s enwombed not by a mother,
But in the belly of the sea.
Here’s the apple — the earthy sphere,
Would you, my honey, — bite it? With
Whom you still argue here, dear? —
You’re reasoning with sea’ abyss!
Unlike earthborn maids, I would rather
Not cross my hands, for I am free —
The daughter enwombed not by a mother
But in the belly of the sea.
Nay, our gals cry not, write nothing,
Not long for a long hoped — for mail!
Nay. Once again, I fish with lasses
Without seines and I won’t fail.
My strains have power for others —
Although why that — wis not to me —
Me — who’s enwombed not by a mother,
But in the belly of the sea.
And that is my possession: which is —
To give away — there are still more.
And, crashing rocks at seashore’ beaches,
My own chest I’m crashing though.
For captive Quinn the court will gather.
What shell I quoth ? — Come in and see!
Me — who’s enwombed not by a mother,
But in the belly of the sea.


Still yesterday my eyes met yours,
Today — you gazed askance. Oh , heavens!
You stayed with me till morning birds, —
But now all skylarks are — ravens!
You are so smart, I’m silly.— Nice!
You are alive, I am stunned. And — wandering
Through Time, the women’s wails rise,
“What have I done to you, my darling?!”
The tears are — water, as her blood.
By tears, by blood she laves and no one sees.
Like a stepmother, Love is hard.
Don’t count on — being judged with clemency.
Ships take away my darlings. Those —
Who choose the white way. And a dark, grim
Lament ascends along the earth,
“What have I done to you, my darling?”
Yet, yesterday — you hold me, lied,
“I won’t exchange you for a crown!”
You took the hands off — and my life-
A rusty kopeck — is rolling down!
The murderer of my own child
I stand before a court. But dying,
Even in Hell, I’ll ask you, “Why,
What have I done to you, my darling?”
I ask the chair, the bed at night,
“Why should I tolerate my misery?”
“He kissed — it’s time to crucify —
To kiss the next one” — answer easily.
You taught me, “Like the fire be!”
The icy steppe — Here I’ve been hurled in.
My darling, — that — you’ve done to me.
What have I done to you, my darling?
Don’t argue that — all is disclosed!
I am your concubine no longer!
When everlasting Love is lost —
The Gardener-Death comes with a longing.
An apple — by itself — will lose!
There is no use in shaking, snarling...
For everything I beg excuse —
All I have done to you, my darling!

The Poet

A poet — from afar begins his speech,
A poet — far away is taken by his speech.
By planets and by tokens… by gone
Tales potholes… Amidst his Yea and Nay,
He — even whopping from a belfry— gets along
With a hook… For comet’s way —
Is poets’ way. A scattered links
Of causality — It is his bond. Are
You looking up? — Give up! For poet’s eclipse
Is not foreseen by calendar.
He is the one, who tosses cards,
Who easily cheats weight and count,
Who from the school desks asks. His art
Would definitely beat up Kant.
Who — in Bastilles’ stone coffin blooms
Like trees in their prime. The one
Who leaves no traces, and for whom
As for the train — you’re late, he’s gone!
— for comets’ way —
Is poets’ way: burning, not warming us,
And tearing up, not rearing — brake in and — everything — explode!
— The ridged way — not the clear-cut path
As calendars foretold.


Nor — an impostor, nor — an uninvited guest
Neither a maid I am — you have the wrong impression.
I am thy seventh day, I am thy Sunday’s rest
I am thy seventh sky, I am your passion.
There, on earth with pennies I was doled,
With their millstones round my neck — and — Do you like it?
My dear! Recognize me! — Not at all?
I am your little swallow, your Psyche!


Take all my tatters, don’t be abashed,
They were — before — my tender flesh.
Now wasted, torn, bestowed away, —
Only two wings remain today.
Dress me up in your splendour,
Have mercy upon me.
Those poor rags... — You render
Them back to the vestry.

* * *

I'm the jailbird, you are my warden.
It is something you can not avoid
'Cause we share both fate and the order
For post-horses relays in the void.

I am sure my temper is quiet!
I am sure my eyes are fine!
Let me, Guard, for God's sake, untied,
Take a walk to the nearest pine!