Evening after evening my mother reads
The Way of the Samurai:
every new morning is like the whiteness of the body
the slightly open black kimono
the tip of blade should be stuck in
as deep as possible.
One should struggle with the day
like with skin always ready
By the head of the bed, instead of the Bible
Mishima’s book should be held
with its cover resembling a box made of tiny linden boards.
Even the saddest truth
should be carefully plucked from it, as if it were
a cherry flower
that two little demons
the demon of remembrance and the demon of oblivion
ritually bow to at the same time.
Evening after evening my mother studies
the secrets of samurai: before she goes to sleep
she marks her spot in the book with the needle
she slides from the wakened volcano
of her unbraided bun.
Only she knows: there is
another, as yet unwritten law claiming
that years are a curtain made of paper birds
one should squeeze through
not making a single one swing
by wrong words or excessive breathing.
One should permit only
the gentle sound of little wings
behind one’s back.
Translated by: David Albahari and Richard Harrison
While white-washing the apartment
I decided on a book purge,
but threw away only the catalog of editions from ’85
and a few books of poetry.
From then on the shelves swayed and creaked
like some distant tubercular lungs
and persistently stuck in Dostoevsky’s
flat like meta-punishment.
And every night from your name, Osip M*
the snare travels to my neck
and the head descends to her alone:
you have all my telephone numbers.
Translated by: Brian Henry
*Osip M. (Osip Mandelstam, Russian poet)