translated by Josephine von Zitzewitz


Go to sleep now, stop your tired mumbling and murmuring.
Don’t sit by the window! You’ll get lost in the autumn night’s gloom.
Stop whispering poems to make your body stop trembling.
Turn away from the moon! Wrap yourself up, sit over there.

Breathe with more care! Listen closely how the trees outside breathe!
Try to grasp the invisible clouds’ dissolution!
Then entrust yourself and your silence to midnight and nature,
Don’t take the world’s wordlessness closely to heart.

Don’t breathe, like a yogi, exhaling to space all concerns!
Take your heart in your hands! May it have a brief rest!
Even out your pulse. You’ll forget yourself a bit more.
To listen to your own heart… can be a heavy yoke.

Stop tossing and wait! Once the pain has released you,
You can glide off into that silence above.
Don’t fear grief without reason bursting in on your sleep.
That’s the memory of soul, now a prisoner of breath.

That’s the memory of love – the faraway shore you abandoned –
The memory of all shores from which you were carried away.
That’s the grief of horizons, of unavowed waves and New Worlds.
That’s the memory of birth. Consider that you’ve been lucky.


August, autumn… Fan the fire,
Once midnight comes, be still, a shadow.
Summer hid behind the hillside.
The polar day is fading now.

Sit by the river and lament,
Stay till the first autumnal snow
Out in the taiga by yourself,
Don’t count your pennies for the trip.

Don’t look at dates but to the distance.
Don’t keep a diary… The North
Is the best diary. And grief.
Mosquitoes buzz around your temple.

Don’t think now of the place you’ve come from,
Don’t guess where you’ll go, be still.
And if the city did forget you
Learn to forgive mosquitoes here.

And also learn to love the fire,
The stones’ quick prattle with the river.
Summer hid behind the hillside.
August, autumn, grief, and peace.

Oh what a sun! And how much sky!
How hot and flushed the forest is,
Adazzle with the sparkling shards
From high above. The sky is glass.

Bright flaming maple trees are trembling.
A linden drops an ardent leaf.
The birches’ highest crowns are rustling.
The air is crisp and dry and clean.

Surroundings suddenly expand
And every sound around rings out,
Be that a tit’s peep or a curse,
An axe’s blow, a laugh, a cough.

And if this conflagration ever
Cuts short eternity’s long breath
Under the axe’s ringing blow
I’d know that now my time had come.

But I don’t burn though I catch fire.
I slowly breathe the smoke of time
That smells autumnal and elusive.
Hot tears keep falling on my kerchief.

In anguish I ask God, ‘Oh why
Am I a stranger to your world?
Just like your world I am on fire,
Just like your world I’ll always sin.


More translated poems available — seeking publisher

© Josephine von Zitzewitz
© «Okhapkin readings» almanaс №1, 2015
© Vitaly Afanasiev/ photo
© «Russian culture»/2018