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.

 

 

 

1.

 

Animal– barn,

Pilgrim road,

Corpse hearse,                                                                                                                                                   

For each his own.                                                                                                                                           

 

Woman dissembles,

Tsar assembles,

And I bestow praise

That calls your name.                              

                                                                                                                                                                              

1916

 

2.

 

Four years old.

Eyes frozen cubes,

brows already fated,

from Kremlin’s heights

scan for the

first time today

the ice-floe.

 

Ice-floes, icy-foes

and cupolas.

Ring golden,

sling silver.

Crossed hands,

mute mouth.

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?”

“Very much.”

“For always?”

“Yes.”

 

Sunset’s soon,                                                                                                                                                      

got to go back:

You to the nursery, and me –

to read rude letters

that bite my lips.

                                                                                                                                                                                

The ice                                                                                                                                                           

keeps

flowing.

 

24 March 1916

                                                                                                                                                                    

3.

 

RETURN OF THE BOSS

 

Lame horse.

Rusty sword.

Who’s he?

Some beloved boss?

 

Hours sighed.

Ages stepped

Eyes down.

It’s all there.

 

Foefriend.

Thornlaurel.

Dreams pricked

Scratchy hoarse. 

 

Rusty horse.

Lame sword.

Fileted cloak. 

Totem straight back.

 

 

4.

 

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!

 

 

5.

 

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?

 

6.

 

Tiny hands coldly crumple 

Their smock.

 

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.

 

7.

 

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,

moonstone earrings,

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 DiaryMore 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.