Untitled, by Osip MandelstamTranslated by John HighMatvei Yankelevich

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The poem, which is dated March 3, 1937, appears in Issue 51 of Talisman: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry and Politics. Mandelstam (1891–1938) was a Russian poet who was arrested for anti-Soviet sentiment in his work and sent into exile, where he composed this poem. He later died while in transit to a labor camp. Translated from the Russian.

As for your pity and your mercy, France,
I plead for your chèvrefeuille, beg your earth,

For the truth of your doves and the lies of diminutive
Vintners fenced in by their cheesecloth nets.

Your closely cropped air in an easy December
Freezing to frost—moneyed, offended ...

But even a violet in prison: losing its mind in boundlessness!
A song whistling like a little girl reckless and teasing.

Where, washing kings away with it,
July’s crooked street surged and seethed,

But now in Paris, Arles, and Chartres,
Charlie Chaplin governs, big-hearted—

Exact, disheveled in his oceanic bowler,
Puppet-like, he sashays with the flower girl ...

Where the shawl of the spider’s web with a rose on its breast
Turns to stone in a two-towered fever-sweat,
A shame, this merry-go-round turning about
In airy gratitude as it breathes in the city—

Bow and bare your neck, godless woman
With those golden, nanny-goat eyes,
Tease the thickets of miserly roses
With your wry, throaty shears.


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