Marina Tsvetaeva, 2 Untitled Poems
Translated from the Russian by Ekaterina Rogalsky


I do not think, or argue, or complain.
Or sleep.
I long for neither sun, nor moon, nor sea.
Nor ship.

I do not feel the heat amidst these walls,
Nor garden’s green,
Nor do I long for your desired gift,

Neither the morning gladdens nor the trolley’s
Ring-singing run.
I live, forgetting date and age
And daylight sun.

I am – a dancer on a tightrope slashed
And hewn.
I am – a shadow’s shadow: lunatic
Of two dark moons.



They fly – quick-wrought and quickly written,
Still hot from all the bitterness and bliss.
My moment, hour, day, year, lifetime – smitten,
Twixt love and love lie on the crucifix.

And I hear word of thunderstorms a-rising;
Spears, Amazonian, again flash through the sky…
Yet cannot hold my pen back! These two roses
Have sucked my heart’s blood dry.
• • •

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) is considered to be one of the most original 20th Century Russian poets. Her extremely eccentric personality and difficult character found release in her poetry writing. Tsvetaeva’s perfect control of language is one of the key elements of her poetry, as are the striking images her short, full-throated poems practically overflow with. Themes of love, female sexuality and the private, many times inexpressible (though not by Tsvetaeva) emotions of the feminine mind and heart rise to dizzying heights of tenderness and then plummet down into the blackest forms of despair a never-ending rollercoaster ride of insight and emotion. But it is the rhythm and cadence of Tsvetaeva’s language that makes her poetry truly unique – changing pace and musicality to match her images and her meaning, Tsvetaeva’s fluid, “ring-singing” lines reflect the depth, accuracy and emotional capacity of the Russian language, which presents quite a challenge for translation, as the meaning of her poetry is intertwined with its musicality to form a single organism, which is lost to the reader when one of these components is left out. At times soft and lilting, like a trilling folksong, at others – short and breathless, as though ripped from the heart, Tsvetaeva’s rhythms incarnate the vast boundlessness of her homeland. Tsvetaeva did not accept the 1917 Revolution and thus emmigrated to avoid persecution, spending an emotionally and financially devastating 17 years in exile. Her return to Soviet Russia in 1939 was a forced flight of evacuation following the Nazi invasion, and her suicide coupled with her exile made her a prohibited poet for most of her life. Only in the 1960s was her work was brought back into the literary sphere.