13 March 2016

Forth from the Writers’ Home (March 1971) / Из Дома творчества (март 1971)

L. Loseff and J. Brodsky, Kellomäki (Komarovo), March 1971 (photo: Nina Mokhova)Л. Лосев и И. Бродский, Келломяки (Комарово), Март 1971-ого (фото: Нина  Мохова)

Forth from the Writers’ Home (March 1971)

For G.F.Komarov

In that place where a crooked composer
plied his trade in waltz tunes he’d pinched,
a Kievan hoarded his booze, and
a Muscovite cooed to his strings,
in that coastal resort, cold and cloudy,
called ‘Mosquitotown’ (only too true),
where once there howled like a hound-dog
that writer gone bonkers, Petrov—
convalescing from cardiac bother,
I woke up one day; it was through.

When it sinks in, something of that sort—
trembling hands, a fire in your head.
I cradled myself through the postern,
like a bauble, a glass Yuletide bead.
Forth I went with my death’s-door discharge,
as the rising sun burned itself out.
A firtree with gold-braided edges,
at attention, gave me a salute,
I’d an honour detail of aspens
to the first turning of my route.

Farewell to the down-at-heel premises
of the Writers’ Home. Fine, let ’em write.
I’d been granted long years of remission
by the old-lady triumvirate.
My thread now stretched long, taut, tough-woven.
And the Muse, naked, touched me as hers.
Someone quitting this place, Komarovo,
never ever would care to reverse,
hearing freedom’s sweet whispered message,
‘Leaving home may not be for the worse’.

[From Sisyphus Redux (2000)]

(Translation © 2016 G.S. Smith)

[Translator’s Note] I am very grateful to Nikita Eliseev and Barry Scherr for help with this poem.
The dacha resort of Komarovo, known from its late nineteenth-century beginnings until after World War II by its Finnish name ‘Kellomäki’, stands about 30 miles north of Leningrad on the Gulf of Finland. Its present name derives not from Russian komar, ‘mosquito’, but from the surname of the President of the USSR Academy of Sciences in the 1940s, the botanist Vladimir Komarov. It was the site of several State and Party facilities, including a Dom tvorchestva, literally ‘House of Creation’, belonging to the Union of Writers. Anna Akhmatova is buried in Komarovo; Joseph Brodsky occasionally stayed there before he left Russia in 1972, and made it the setting of one of his greatest longer poems.
Gennadii Fedorovich Komarov is the Chief Editor of the Pushkin Fund publishing house, and also works for the Petersburg journal The Star (Zvezda). He published the Russian editions of Lev Loseff’s poetry, as part of a monumental list that includes Brodsky.
The composer mentioned unkindly in the first stanza is the eminent Isaak Shvarts (1923-2009), who specialised in film scores. The ‘Muscovite’ is his regular collaborator Bulat Okudzhava (1924-97), who in spring 1971 was in Leningrad to work with Shvarts on music for the film ‘Tell Me About Yourself’, which includes the song ‘The Years Go By’ (‘A gody ukhodiat..’). 
‘Petrov’ is in all probability the prolific poet and translator Sergei Petrov (1911-88), who was arrested in Leningrad in 1933 and exiled; he subsequently taught German and other languages in various institutions, only returning permanently to Leningrad late in life. He is best known for his translations of the Swedish national poet K.M.Bellman (1740-95), and Rilke’s Das Stunden-Buch (1998).
The identity of the ‘Kievan’ in l.3 remains obscure.

The Writers' Home, Kellomäki (Komarovo) / Дом творчества, Келломяки (Комарово)

Из Дома творчества (март 1971)

Г. Ф. Комарову 

Где ворованной музыкой вальса 
композитор-жульман торговал, 
киевлянин с бутылкой ховался, 
а москвич над струной ворковал, 
в дачной местности хлада и мрака, 
честно названной — в честь комаров, 
где однажды завыл, как собака, 
сумасшедший писатель Петров, 
от инфаркта я там поправлялся, 
раз проснулся и понял — здоров. 

От открытий подобного рода 
в пальцах дрожь и в заглазии жар. 
Я себя выношу за ворота, 
весь стеклянный, как ёлочный шар. 
Вышел, вольноотпущенник смерти, 
под рассвет, догоревший дотла. 
Мне сосна в золотом позументе, 
став навытяжку, честь отдала, 
да осин караульная рота 
проводила меня до угла. 

Покидаю убогие своды 
Дома Творчества. Пусть их, творят. 
За уход дарит долгие годы 
мне старушечий триумвират. 
Нить сучится, длинна и сурова. 
Музы трогательна нагота. 
Покидающие Комарово 
не оглядываются никогда, 
слыша ласковый шёпот свободы: 
«Дом родной потерять — не беда». 

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