Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva (1892–1941) was one of the greatest poets of the 20th century in Russia, and according to Joseph Brodsky the most innovative. There is a house museum in Moscow named for Tsvetaeva. She was married to Sergei Efron, with whom she had three children. After he was executed for espionage in 1941, she committed suicide in the same year.
Here are seven poems by Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva translated from Russian into English by expat American poet Stephen A. Rozwenc and Professor of Russian Language, Literature, and Culture at the University of South Florida, Victor Peppard.
For each his own.
And I bestow praise
That calls your name.
Four years old.
Eyes frozen cubes,
brows already fated,
from Kremlin’s heights
scan for the
first time today
Knitted brow– You Napoleon!
Contemplate the Kremlin.
“Mama, where does the ice go?”
“Forward, my little swan.
Past palaces, churches, gates –
Forward, my little swan!”
Puzzled her gaze.
“Do you love me, Marina?”
got to go back:
You to the nursery, and me –
to read rude letters
that bite my lips.
24 March 1916
RETURN OF THE BOSS
Some beloved boss?
It’s all there.
Totem straight back.
I’m so pleased you’re not obsessed with me.
I’m thrilled I’m not obsessed with you.
That earth’s sphere so weighty
Won’t swim out from under me or you.
I’m delighted I can be waggish –
Dissipated – and not toy with words,
Not blush some suffocating wave,
Our sleeves barely teasing.
I’m overjoyed that to test my face
You’ll sweetly embrace another,
And won’t foretell I’ll burn in Hades
For not hungrily kissing yours.
That my tender name, my dear,
You won’t blurt to curse day and night . . .
That this church a touch quieter
Won’t sing hallelujah over such heights!
Thanks to your heart fist clenched
That without knowing yourself!
Love me so: for placid nights,
For the rarity of sunset trysting,
For no evening walks swathed in moonbeams,
For sun never lighting rapt heads too –
For you not obsessed – alas – with me,
For me not obsessed – alas – with you!
So why such boo-boo crying?
Drama so silly and stupid.
Not eating to bawl your soup.
Twist those fists from your eyes.
There's no reason to go boo-hoo.
I’m your father no rancid guy.
So why gulp hiccups that cry?
What brand of man are you?
Twist those fists from your eyes.
What about all this la-la to cry?
Tiny hands coldly crumple
Our spoiled little girl trembles ghost white,
Granddaughter babushka eclectic charged
With an instant– “F”.
Teacher’s knowing glare disbelieves
Tears from hollow crocodile faces.
O sweet dear! An “F” is one terrible defeat.
Baby’s first disgrace.
One more tear shed
for what comes ahead,
I'll dip your ring in
so you can wet wave it
on your finger.
Others acquire men,
golden rings to amend,
I have a tear,
some liquid turquoise despair
that will dry out with the dawn.
You can wear some for a while,
the memories still live,
when comes another swell
if you can no longer keep,
drop it into the deep
spent night of some well.
Victor Peppard, PhD, is Professor of Russian Language, Literature, and Culture at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He has published articles in English and in Russian on Russian writers from Babel to Zamiatin, a monograph on Yury Olesha, and a co-authored book with James Riordan on Soviet Sport Diplomacy. He has also published a number of articles about Norman Mailer and Russian literature. In addition, Peppard has published translations of poetry by Nekrasov and Evtushenko and composed original poems of his own in the Russian language.
Stephen A. Rozwenc is a widely published expat poet, who currently resides in Thailand. He has published six collections of poetry: The Fourth Turning, Grass Hill, Ekphrastic Nightingales, New England Fortune Cookies, Death Is Birth, and Thai Diary. More than two hundred of his poems have appeared individually in numerous literary journals: The Mailer Review, Buddhist Poetry Review, Blue Lake Review, Dm Du Jour, Equinox, Eunoia Review, Glass Poetry, Naugatuck River Review, New Pattaya Review, Philadelphia Poets, Poets Against War, Plum Tree Tavern, and WordPeace. He has been a past recipient of two Williamsburg Massachusetts Arts Council Grants for poetry.