21 June 2013

Where the air is "roof-tile pink" / To Joseph: Self-translation

To Joseph

Where the air is "roof-tile pink,"
where lions are winged while birds
prefer stepping over the Piazza's flagstones
as if they were Germans or Japanese,
where cats can swim and walls can weep,
where the sun fumbles and drops around some morning gold
before testing the lagoon with its radiant elbow:
is the bath ready? –
there you got stuck, stayed and dissolved,
there you lounged in a cafe chair,
took a drag on your cigarette, froze, divided yourself in two,
floated off with a smoke ring, and –
go catch! – when you are everywhere,
now jingling with the porcelain
churches, now running with the breeze through a garden;
a defector, a man in a trenchcoat,
a jailbird on the run, you found a way
behind the looking glass,
disappeared at the crossing of parallel lines
leaving no footprints on water;
there you turned into a shabby tugboat,
into heavy mother-of-pearl clouds above murky canals,
in the coffee aroma of a Sunday morning,
where Sunday is tomorrow and tomorrow is always now.

May 1996

Rendered, from the Russian, by the author with John Kopper.

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