November 2010


María Teresa Andruetto
Marcelo Cohen
Eugenio Conchez
P. Scott Cunningham
Ruth Fogelman
Jennifer Hearn
William Hershaw
Alexander Hutchison
Stephanie Johnson
Channah Magori
Vasyl Makhno
Osip Mandelstam
Geraldine Maxwell
María Negroni
Orest Popovych
Pauline Prior-Pitt
Ian Probstein
Cynthia Rimsky
Priya Sarukkai Chabria

Issue 13 Guest Artist:
Rodolfo Zagert

(Issue 13 Feature: 15 Miami Poets)
Elisa Albo
Howard Camner
Adrian Castro
Denise Duhamel
Corey Ginsberg
Michael Hettich
Miriam Levine
Christopher Louvet
Jesse Millner
Barbra Nightingale
Geoffrey Philp
Laura Richardson
Alexis Sellas
Virgil Suárez
Nick Vagnoni

15 Miami Poets Guest Artist:
Xavier Cortada

President: Peter Robertson
Vice-President: Sari Nusseibeh
Deputy Editor: Jill Dawson
General Editor: Beatriz Hausner
Art Editor: Calum Colvin
Deputy General Editor: Jeff Barry

Consulting Editors
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
Jean Boase-Beier
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boullossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jenni Calder
Stanley Cavell
Sampurna Chattarji
Sarah Churchwell
Hollis Clayson
Sally Cline
Kristina Cordero
Drucilla Cornell
Junot Díaz
André Dombrowski
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
Denise Duhamel
Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
Orlando Figes
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Nancy Fraser
Maureen Freely
Michael Fried
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Lydia Goehr
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Siobhan Harvey
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
Valerie Henitiuk
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
Kapka Kassabova
John Kelly
Martin Kern
Mimi Khalvati
Joseph Koerner
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
Linda Leith
Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Laurie Maguire
Willy Maley
Alberto Manguel
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Marina Mayoral
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Edie Meidav
Jack Miles
Toril Moi
Susana Moore
Laura Mulvey
Azar Nafisi
Paschalis Nikolaou
Martha Nussbaum
Sari Nusseibeh
Tim Parks
Molly Peacock
Pascale Petit
Clare Pettitt
Caryl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
Elena Poniatowska
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
François Rigolot
Geoffrey Robertson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Élisabeth Roudinesco
Carla Sassi
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Sudeep Sen
Hadaa Sendoo
Miranda Seymour
Mimi Sheller
Elaine Showalter
Penelope Shuttle
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Julian Stallabrass
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
Rebecca Swift
Susan Tiberghien
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
Lidia Vianu
Victor Vitanza
Marina Warner
David Wellbery
Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

Associate Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Eugenio Conchez
Assistant Editor: Patricia Delmar
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Assistant Editor: Siska Rappé
Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. Armenia by Osip Mandelstam, translated from the Russian by Ian Probstein  


In the end of his "Verses on the Unknown Soldier," arguably one of the best poems of the great Russian poet, Osip Mandelstam wrote:

"I was born on the night of the second and third
Of January in the unreliable year
Of ninety-one, and the centuries
        Encircle me with fire."
Osip Mandelstam was born in 1891 on January 3, according to the old Russian calendar, and on January 15, according to the new one, and this year is 120th anniversary of his birth.

Mandelstam lead an unsettled life full of tribulations, wandering and exile. After his Stalin’s epigram of 1934, for which the dictator, who used to say that “vengeance is a cold dish,” never forgave the poet, Mandelstam was first sent to Cherdyn’ in Siberia, then due to protection of several powerful Communist party functionaries who were fond of Mandelstam’s poetry, the term was somehow milder: he had to live in the provincial town of Voronezh deprived of the right to live in the capital and big cities, and finally was arrested again in 1937, sent to Vladivostok labor (virtually concentration) camp where he perished in 1938. The exact date of his death is unknown; neither has the poet the grave of his own. However, even in Voronezh exile (1935-1937), which he perceives as “a lion’s den” alluding to Daniel, he is still thirsty of life and thinks of an earthly paradise. Hence he viewed his brief journey to Armenia in 1930 not as escape from his harsh reality but as a discovery of the roots of humanity and civilizations. It is a well-known fact that one of the ways of overcoming forceful separation from life for Mandelstam is “nostalgia for world culture” in search of harmony of France, Italy, the Mediterranean and of “the blessed islands” of the Greek archipelago. In his Armenian poetic cycle and in his “Journey to Armenia” in prose, Armenia is viewed as a country standing at the crossroads of civilization between Persia, Babylon, Mediterranean, and notably the Byzantine empire. Armenia is viewed by the poet as both part of Hellenic and Roman culture and separated from it. He is rediscovering the great primeval past (the Mount Ararat is believed to be the place where the Noah’s Arc landed during the Flood), tragedies of the genocide of the Armenian people during the rule of the Ottoman empire, and a great spirit of ancient land. In his Voronezh exile the poet begs and rebels:

Let go, Voronezh, raven-town,
Let me be, don’t let me down,
You’ll drop me, crop me, won’t revive,
Voronezh — whim, Voronezh — raven, knife.
(April 1935)

Having deprived me of seas, flight, space,
You gave me instead a foothold of a forcible land,
What have you gained? A brilliant end:
You couldn’t have taken moving lips away.

(May 1935)

Mandelstam, has always viewed eternity and heaven as natural and achieved through art and poetry, as was stated above. In his later poem of 1937, Mandelstam wrote:

[I will say it in draft, in a whisper  
Since the time has not come yet:
The game of the instinctive heaven
Is attained through experience and sweat.

And beneath a temporary sky
Of purgatory we often forget
That this happy heaven’s depot
Is our expending and lifetime haven. ]

Having gone through all the circles of earthly hell and purgatory and anticipating his own arrest and perhaps death, Mandelstam, nevertheless, claims that heaven is a “lifetime home.”

His thirst for reality was almost as great as his thirst for world culture. Although his approach to reality and time was often hostile, we can see that his attitude to it was far from being straightforward. The most vivid example of Mandelstam’s complex approach to art and reality is revealed in his visionary poem “The Verses on the Unknown Soldier” that evokes his vision of the past, present and future of humankind based on history and science.

Like Ezra Pound, Mandelstam has persistently followed scientific inventions of his time and was aware of the fact that science can bring destruction and chaos, as he predicted in “The Verses on The Unknown Soldier” (1937) akin to Pound’s in Canto 115. Beginning with a vision of a human ocean that lacked seeing and foreseeing (“Let this air be called a witness: /The long-ranged heart that it has, and in dug-outs, omnivorous and active/ Is the ocean, windowless stuff i), “The Verses on The Unknown Soldier” then reveal a cosmic vision:

Through the ether of ten-digit zeroes
The light of speeds ground down to a ray
Starts a number, made lucent and clear
By the bright pain of moth-eaten holes and moles.
And a new battlefield beyond the field of fields
Flies like a triangular flock of cranes,
The news flies like a new light-dust,
And it’s bright from the yesterday’s fight.
The news flies like a new light-dust:
I am not Leipzig, not Waterloo,
Not the Battle of Nations — I am new,
I will dazzle the world with my light.
Arabian mess, mash and hash,
The light of speeds ground down to a ray —
And trampling my retina with its squint soles,
The beam flattens the apple of my eye.

Besides Pound’s Canto 115, Mandelstam’s vision here is akin to Yeats’s “Second Coming” and to Pound’s “Hell Cantos.” However, the Russian poet’s vision differs from that of Yeats since it is revealed in an incredible blend of a scientific vocabulary and at the same time genuine metaphors. Though Mandelstam begins with the hell of past wars, and the very first lines quoted above allude to WWI, Mandelstam’s “Soldier” also differs from Pound’s “Hell Cantos” since it acquires a cosmic vision and goes far beyond particulars.

The Russian scholar Yuri Levin maintains that the entire Mandelstam’s poem is set by the Block’s line “A horrid sight of future wars” and evokes “a complex image of a global war”ii while another prominent scholar V. Ivanov presumes that both old scientific theories, such as that of ether, and the newest, in particular on the velocity of the speed of light (C= 300 000 km/sec) and Einstein’s theory of relativity as well as Mandelstam’s contemplation on the formula E= MC2 that eventually led to the invention of a nuclear bomb,iii are reflected in the poem. Levin distinguishes the main themes as Cosmos and Nature, War and Death. Mandelstam is perhaps the most intricate Russian poet of the 20th century known for his esoteric and complex allusions and associations mostly hidden between the lines. Mandelstam’s reader, like the reader of Yeats’s and Pound’s poetry, has to do a lot of research to reveal them. As for allusions and associations, Nadezhda Mandelstam as well as Levin, Ronen, M. Gasparov, Ivanov and other scholars point out to Ezekiel, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the poetry of Lomonosov, Derzhavin, Baratynski’s “Cherep” [A Skull], Lermontov’s Demon, Zedlitz’s “Die Nächtliche Heerschau” [The Night Parade] in Zhukovskii’s translation, and Flammarion. In addition, Gasparov mentions Erich Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), Henri Barbusse’s Fire as well as the Russian writer Lidin’s novel The Grave of the Unknown Soldier and Arcadii Shteinberg’s (1907-1984) expressionist poem of 1933 bearing the same title. Gasparov proves that Shteinberg’s poem alludes to Lermontov’s Napoleon, Zedlitz’s “Die Nächtliche Heerschau,” and distinguishes the themes of darkness and future eternal light, purgatory and resurrection. (Since Lipkin proved that another poem of Shteinberg, “Wolf Hunting” has attracted attention both of Mayakovski and Mandelstam, who wrote his famous poem “For the Glory of the Future Ages” alluding to some metaphors of the above poem,iv it is most likely that Mandelstam alluded to the poem of his younger contemporary, who would later share the great poet’s fate spending more than eleven years in Stalin’s camps and then would become one of the greatest Russian translators of poetry, in particular, the best translator of Milton’s Paradise Lost.) The poems of the German poet Max Bartel “To the Unknown Soldier” and “Verdun” that Mandelstam himself translated into Russian in the middle of 1920s, can be certainly added to that list. Besides, there is a certain affinity between the opening of Mandelstam’s “Soldier” and Apollinaire’s surrealist poem “Ocean of Earth” dedicated to G. de Chirico and translated into Russian by Benedict Lifshits, an acquaintance of Mandelstam, a prominent translator of French poetry and a superb poet close to the Futurists:

Airplanes drop eggs
Watch out for the anchor
Watch out for the ink which they squirt
It’s a good thing you came from the sky
The honeysuckle of the sky climbs up
The earthly octopus throb
And then we are closer and closer to being our own grave-diggers
Pale octopus of chalky waves O octopus with pale beaks
Around the house there is this ocean which you know
And which is never stillv

The vision of Mandelstam’s poem, however, is higher and bigger than all scientific and literary allusions and shows such a state of humanity, in which the light itself becomes darkness. Thus Mandelstam’s “light” differs of course from Pound’s “Nous.” In the end of the poem written mostly in the 3rd person, Mandelstam shifts to the first person singular to “dissolve in humanity”:

Aortas are flooded with blood,
And a whisper spreads through the ranks:
—“I was born in the year ninety-four,
—I was born in the year ninety-two…”
And squeezing in my fist a worn date of birth,
With bloodless lips I whisper amid crowd and herd:
“I was born on the night of the second and third
Of January in the unreliable year
Of ninety-one, and the centuries
Encircle me with fire.”
1-15 March 1937

The end of the poem does not only symbolize Mandelstam’s reunion with mankind on the eve of annihilation and his vision of the Last Judgment, but it is also a foreseeing of his own horrible fate, when “squashing” a number in his fist, deprived of his name and personality, the poet will be dissolved in the multitudes of persecuted exiles thrown to Stalin’s camps. In a way, Mandelstam’s vision is more terrifying than Dante’s Hell since even the worst criminals in Inferno preserve their names and personalities. However, in the poem of 1937 (written the same year as “Verses on the Unknown Soldier”), Mandelstam says that the sky of purgatory is temporary, and though we forget that in our suffering, “This happy heaven’s depot /Is our expending and lifetime home.”

Ian Probstein

i Bernard Meares’s translation.

ii Levin, Iu. “Zametki o poezii Mandelshtama 30-h godov. II “Stikhi o neizvestnom soldate.” [Verses on the Unknown Soldier] Slavica Hierolymitana Vol.4. (Jerusalem, 1979): 185-212.

iii Ivanov, Viach. V. “Stikhi o neizvestnom soldate v kontekste mirovoi poesii.” Zizn’ i tvorchestvo Mandelshtama. [Verses on the Unknown Soldier in the context of world poetry. Life and creativity of Mandelstam] Voronezh: Voronezh UP, 1990. 360.

iv Lipkin, S. I. “Vtoraia Doroga.” [ The Second Road] New Review 162. (New York, 1986): 38.

v Roger Shattuck’s translation. Modern European Poetry. Willis Barnstone, general ed. Toronto/New York/London: Bantam Books, 1966. 9-10.






Like a six-winged fearful bull
Here labor appears to people,
And swollen with a venous blood,
Midwinter roses bloom.



You rock Hafiz’s rose,
You nurse beasts like babies,
You breathe with octahedral shoulders
Of peasant bull-like churches.

Painted with a hoarse ochre tincture,
You are all far behind the great mount,
And here is just a picture
Stuck to a tea-saucer with water.



You wished colors — and
A lion-artist’s paw
Snatched out half a dozen
Of colorful pencils from a box.

A land of dry-salter fires
And dead pottery plains,
You tolerated red-bearded Sardars
Amid rocks and clay.

Far away from anchors and tridents,
Where a withered dead continent lies,
You saw all torture-loving tyrants,
All those lovers of life.

Women here pass by bestowing
Upon me their lioness beauty,
Simple as a child’s drawing,
They don’t stir my blood.

How dear is your ominous tongue,
Your coffins are rough and young,
Where the letters are blacksmith’s tongs,
And each word is a cramp...



Ah, I can’t see a thing, and a poor ear is deaf,
Of all colors, I am left hoarse ochre and red lead.

All of a sudden, I started to dream of an Armenian morning,
Going to see what a blue tit is in Yerevan doing,

How a baker bends playing hide-and-seek with bread,
Taking out wet skins of pita lavash from the oven…

Ah, Yerevan, Yerevan! Has a bird painted you
Or a lion like a child took pencils from a pied box?

Ah, Yerevan, Yerevan! Not a city — a roasted nut,
I like curved babylons of your big-mouthed streets.

I soiled my confused life, like a mullah his Koran,
I froze my time and did not shed my hot blood.

Ah, Yerevan, Yerevan! I don’t need a thing,
I don’t want you frozen grapes anymore!



                     Covering mouth like a wet rose,
                     Holding octahedral honeycombs in hands,
                     You stood swallowing tears the whole morning
                     Of the days in the outskirts of the world

                     And turned away with shame and grief
                     From bearded towns of the East,
                     And now you lie on the deathbed of dry-salter,
                     And they cast your death mask.



Wrap your hand with a handkerchief and boldly
Plunge it, till it cracks, in the depth of a royal wild rose,
Into its celluloid thorns. Let’s get a rose without scissors.
Yet watch lest the petals fall at once —
A pinky dross — muslin, a salmon petal of Solomon —
A wilding not fit for sherbet, won’t give scent or oil.



                     A country of yelling stones —
                     Armenia, Armenia!
                     Calling hoarse mountains to arms —
                     Armenia, Armenia!

                     Ever flying to the silver trumpets of Asia —
                     Armenia, Armenia!
                     Generously giving out Persian coins of the sun —
                     Armenia, Armenia!



Not ruins — no, but a cutting-down of a mighty circular wood,
Anchor-like stubs of cut oak-trees of a wild and legendary Christianity,
Rolls of stony cloth on the caps — like goods from a plundered pagan curiosity shop,
Grapes of the size of a pigeon-egg, curls of rams’ horns,
Sullen eagles with owl’s wings — not desecrated by Byzantium yet.



A rose is cold in the snow,
                     Seven feet of snow on the lake Sevan…
                     A mountain fisherman pulled out painted azure sledges,
                     Fat whiskered faces of trout
                     Are on police patrol
                     On a limestone bottom.

In Yerevan and Echmiadzin
                     A giant mountain has drunk all the air,
                     If it could be charmed by some ocarina
                     Or tamed by a pipe, so the snow would melt in the mouth.

Snow, snow, snow on a paper made of rice,
                     The mountain flows closer to lips,
                     I am cold. I am happy. I am glad….



Clattering on porphyry granite,
A peasant’s horse stumbles,
Climbing a bald pedestal
Of the stately ringing stone.
Behind her, carrying sacks with cheese,
Barely catching their breath, stroll
Kurds, who reconciled Satan with God,
Giving his half to each.



It’s such a luxury in a poor village
To hear a hairy music of the water!
What is it? a yarn? a sound? a warning?
Keep away from me! Don’t trouble trouble!
And in the wet song’s maze
There’s a chattering of such a damp haze,
As if a mermaid came
To visit an underworld watchmaker.



I will never see you,
A near-sighted Armenian sky,
And will not squint
Looking at Ararat’s tent,
Nor will I ever open
In the library of clay authors
A hollow book of a wonderful land,
From which the first people learned.



Azure and clay, clay and azure,
What else do you need? Squint your eyes,
As a short-sighted shah over a turquoise ring,
Over the book of ringing clay, a bookish soil,
Over a festering book, dear clay,
Which tortures us like the music and the word.

October - November 1930

Don’t tell it anyone — ever,
Forget all you have seen —
A prison, an old woman, a bird
Or anything of that kind,

Lest, should you open your mouth
At dawn or in broad daylight,
You’ll be stricken at once
By a rapid coniferous fever.

You’ll remember a country-side wasp,
A student’s pencil-box
Or forest blueberries
Which you never picked up.

October 1930

A prickly speech of the Ararat Valley,
A wild cat, the Armenian tongue,
A wild tongue of clay-built towns,
The language of starving stones.

While a short-sighted shah’s sky —
Azure born blind —
Tries in vain to read a hollow book
Of the black clotted blood of clay.

October 1930

A wild cat — the Armenian tongue —
Tortures me, scratches my ear.
I’d rather lie on a humpback bed —
Oh, fever, oh, evil dark spell.

Fireflies fall down from the ceiling,
Flies crawl on a clammy linen,
And the armies of long-legged birds
March platoon by platoon on a yellow plain.

A fearful bureaucrat with his mattress-like face,
No one is more absurd and wretched,
Sent on assignment — fucking fate —
Without papers to Armenian steppes.

Devil take you, vanish, they say,
So there is no sight, no sound —
An old publican who stole the money,
A former guardsman who took a slap in the face.

Will a familiar —“Wow! Is that you, old chap?”
Greet you in the doorway — “such a farce!”
How long will we gather coffins
As a country girl picks mushrooms?..

We were people and now we are scum,
Doomed to fateful — what class? —
Heart rapture and gripes
And — to Erzurumian bunch of grapes.

November 1930



* * * * * * * * * *

Как бык шестикрылый и грозный,
Здесь людям является труд
И, кровью набухнув венозной,
Предзимние розы цветут…




Ты розу Гафиза колышешь
И нянчишь зверушек-детей,
Плечьми осьмигранными дышишь
Мужицких бычачьих церквей.

Окрашена охрою хриплой,
Ты вся далеко за горой,
А здесь лишь картинка налипла
Из чайного блюдца с водой.



Ты красок себе пожелала —
И выхватил лапой своей
Рисующий лев из пенала
С полдюжины карандашей.

Страна москательных пожаров
И мертвых гончарных равнин,
Ты рыжебородых сардаров
Терпела средь камней и глин.

Вдали якорей и трезубцев,
Где жухлый почил материк,
Ты видела всех жизнелюбцев,
Всех казнелюбивых владык.

И, крови моей не волнуя,
Как детский рисунок просты,
Здесь жены проходят, даруя
От львиной своей красоты.

Как люб мне язык твой зловещий,
Твои молодые гроба,
Где буквы — кузнечные клещи
И каждое слово — скоба...

26 окт.— 16 ноября 1930.



Ax, ничего я не вижу, и бедное ухо оглохло,
Всех-то цветов мне осталось лишь сурик да хриплая охра.

И почему-то мне начало утро армянское сниться;
Думал — возьму посмотрю, как живет в Эривани синица,

Как нагибается булочник, с хлебом играющий в жмурки,
Из очага вынимает лавашные влажные шкурки...

Ах, Эривань, Эривань! Иль птица тебя рисовала,
Или раскрашивал лев, как дитя, из цветного пенала?

Ах, Эривань, Эривань! Не город — орешек каленый,
Улиц твоих большеротых кривые люблю вавилоны.

Я бестолковую жизнь, как мулла свой коран, замусолил,
Время свое заморозил и крови горячей не пролил.

Ах, Эривань, Эривань, ничего мне больше не надо,
Я не хочу твоего замороженного винограда!




Закутав рот, как влажную розу,
Держа в руках осьмигранные соты,
Все утро дней на окраине мира
Ты простояла, глотая слезы.

И отвернулась со стыдом и скорбью
От городов бородатых востока;
И вот лежишь на москательном ложе
И с тебя снимают посмертную маску.




Руку платком обмотай и в венценосный шиповник,
В самую гущу его целлулоидных терний
Смело, до хруста, ее погрузи. Добудем розу без ножниц.
Но смотри, чтобы он не осыпался сразу —
Розовый мусор — муслин — лепесток соломоновый —
И для шербета негодный дичок, не дающий ни масла, ни запаха.



Орущих камней государство —
Армения, Армения!
Хриплые горы к оружью зовущая —
Армения, Армения!

К трубам серебряным Азии вечно летящая —
Армения, Армения!
Солнца персидские деньги щедро раздаривающая —
Армения, Армения!



Не развалины — нет, — но порубка могучего циркульного леса,
Якорные пни поваленных дубов звериного и басенного

Рулоны каменного сукна на капителях, как товар из языческой
                                                                        разграбленной лавки,

Виноградины с голубиное яйцо, завитки бараньих рогов
И нахохленные орлы с совиными крыльями, еще
                                                                        не оскверненные Византией.



Холодно розе в снегу:
     На Севане снег в три аршина...
     Вытащил горный рыбак расписные лазурные сани,
     Сытых форелей усатые морды
     Несут полицейскую службу
     На известковом дне.

А в Эривани и в Эчмиадзине
     Весь воздух выпила огромная гора,
     Ее бы приманить какой-то окариной
     Иль дудкой приручить, чтоб таял снег во рту.

Снега, снега, снега на рисовой бумаге,
     Гора плывет к губам.
     Мне холодно. Я рад...


О порфирные цокая граниты,
Спотыкается крестьянская лошадка,
Забираясь на лысый цоколь
Государственного звонкого камня.
А за нею с узелками сыра,
Еле дух переводя, бегут курдины,
Примирившие дьявола и Бога,
Каждому воздавши половину...

24/Х 1930. Тифлис.



Какая роскошь в нищенском селенье —
Волосяная музыка воды!
Что это? пряжа? звук? предупрежденье?
Чур-чур меня! Далеко ль до беды!
И в лабиринте влажного распева
Такая душная стрекочет мгла,
Как будто в гости водяная дева
К часовщику подземному пришла.

24 ноября 1930. Тифлис.



Я тебя никогда не увижу,
Близорукое армянское небо,
И уже не взгляну прищурясь
На дорожный шатер Арарата,
И уже никогда не раскрою
В библиотеке авторов гончарных
Прекрасной земли пустотелую книгу,
По которой учились первые люди.



Лазурь да глина, глина да лазурь,
Чего ж тебе еще? Скорей глаза сощурь,
Как близорукий шах над перстнем бирюзовым,
Над книгой звонких глин, над книжною землей,
Над гнойной книгою, над глиной дорогой,
Которой мучимся, как музыкой и словом.

16 сент. — 5 ноября 1930 г. Тифлис.



Как люб мне натугой живущий,
Столетьем считающий год,
Рожающий, спящий, орущий,
К земле пригвождённый народ.
Твое пограничное ухо —
Все звуки ему хороши —
Желтуха, желтуха, желтуха
В проклятой горчичной глуши.

Октябрь 1930. Тифлис.



Не говори никому,
Все, что ты видел, забудь —
Птицу, старуху, тюрьму
Или еще что-нибудь.

Или охватит тебя,
Только уста разомкнешь,
При наступлении дня
Мелкая хвойная дрожь.

Вспомнишь на даче осу,
Детский чернильный пенал
Или чернику в лесу,
Что никогда не сбирал.

Октябрь 1930. Тифлис.



Колючая речь араратской долины,
Дикая кошка — армянская речь,
Хищный язык городов глинобитных,
Речь голодающих кирпичей.

А близорукое шахское небо —
Слепорожденная бирюза —
Все не прочтет пустотелую книгу
Черною кровью запекшихся глин.

Октябрь 1930. Тифлис.



Дикая кошка — армянская речь —
Мучит меня и царапает ухо.
Хоть на постели горбатой прилечь:
О, лихорадка, о, злая моруха!

Падают вниз с потолка светляки,
Ползают мухи по липкой простыне,
И маршируют повзводно полки
Птиц голенастых по желтой равнине.

Страшен чиновник — лицо как тюфяк,
Нету его ни жалчей, ни нелепей,
Командированный — мать твою так! —
Без подорожной в армянские степи.

Пропадом ты пропади, говорят,
Сгинь ты навек, чтоб ни слуху, ни духу, —
Старый повытчик, награбив деньжат,
Бывший гвардеец, замыв оплеуху.

Грянет ли в двери знакомое: — Ба!
Ты ли, дружище, — какая издевка!
Долго ль еще нам ходить по гроба,
Как по грибы деревенская девка?..

Были мы люди, а стали людьё,
И суждено — по какому разряду? —
Нам роковое в груди колотье
Да эрзерумская кисть винограду.

Ноябрь 1930. Тифлис.