May 29th

Tomorrow Pasternak dies
in Peredelkino, where on his grave
we spent our youth
reciting “August,”
surrounded by quiet men in dark suits —
they almost liked the lines.

Tomorrow is the day, the 30th. And three months from tomorrow
Tsvetaeva will hang herself
in a Tatar town on the black Kahma river.
Kahma — a tribute to the fuller, solemn
Volga, which rolls her waters south farther from the yoke.
The town with a hook-like name: Elahbuga.

A tributary to the yet unknown,
if only I could give her all my blood
to fill those cobalt rubble veins of a laborer!
If only — all the pine tree air to fill his tormented lungs! —
I, illegitimate offspring,
looking for the two of you

on every bank
of each big frozen river
where boats are stuck in hummocks.


Irina Mashinski is co-editor, with Robert Chandler and Boris Dralyuk, of The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (Penguin Classics, 2015) and of Cardinal Points, the Journal of Brown University’s Slavic Department, and co-translator (with Maria Bloshteyn, Boris Dralyuk, and Robert Chandler) of Lev Ozerov’s Portraits Without Frames (NYRB, 2018). Irina Mashinski is the co-founder (with the late Oleg Woolf) and editor-in-chief of the Cardinal Points/StoSvet literary project. She is the author of ten books of poetry and translations (in Russian). Her first English-language collection, The Naked World, is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil.


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