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Arseny Tarkovsky is one of the most renowned poets of the Soviet period, famous for his

translations from Asian poetry. He is the father of the film director Andrei Tarkovsky, who used
his fathers poetry in many of his films Ivan's Childhood (1962), Andrei Rublev (1966), Solaris
(1972), Mirror (1975) and Stalker (1979) but it was in Nostalgia (1983) that he quoted them
openly and turned them into a structuring device for his highly autobiographical film. Arseny
Tarkovsky engages with the greatest Russian poets like Anna Akhmatova and Marina
Tsvetayeva, with whom he was close friends. Like his sons films, his poetry is haunted by
longing and nostalgia to return to a symbolical, dreamed home, by religious feeling, and by a
world of dreams and the poetry of interior romantic landscapes

Life, Life

I dont believe in omens or fear
Forebodings. I flee from neither slander
Nor from poison. Death does not exist.
Everyones immortal. Everything is too.
No point in fearing death at seventeen,
Or seventy. Theres only here and now, and light;
Neither death, nor darkness, exists.
Were all already on the seashore;
Im one of those wholl be hauling in the nets
When a shoal of immortality swims by.

If you live in a house the house will not fall.

Ill summon any of the centuries,
Then enter one and build a house in it.
Thats why your children and your wives
Sit with me at one table,
The same for ancestor and grandson:
The future is being accomplished now,
If I raise my hand a little,
All five beams of light will stay with you.
Each day I used my collar bones
For shoring up the past, as though with timber,
I measured time with geodetic chains
And marched across it, as though it were the Urals.

I tailored the age to fit me.

We walked to the south, raising dust above the steppe;
The tall weeds fumed; the grasshopper danced,
Touching its antenna to the horse-shoes and it prophesied,
Threatening me with destruction, like a monk.
I strapped my fate to the saddle;
And even now, in these coming times,
I stand up in the stirrups like a child.

Im satisfied with deathlessness,

For my blood to flow from age to age.
Yet for a corner whose warmth I could rely on
I'd willingly have given all my life,
Whenever her flying needle
Tugged me, like a thread, around the globe.

(translated by Alex Nemser and Nariman Skakov)

And this I dreamt, and this I dream

And this I dreamt, and this I dream,

And some time this I will dream again,
And all will be repeated, all be re-embodied,
You will dream everything I have seen in dream.

To one side from ourselves, to one side from the world

Wave follows wave to break on the shore,
On each wave is a star, a person, a bird,
Dreams, reality, death - on wave after wave.

No need for a date: I was, I am, and I will be,

Life is a wonder of wonders, and to wonder
I dedicate myself, on my knees, like an orphan,
Alone - among mirrors - fenced in by reflections:
Cities and seas, iridescent, intensified.
A mother in tears takes a child on her lap.

The Cricket (1940)

To tell the truth, I'm kin

to the house cricket.

I sing a secret song

above the oven's ash.
For me, one brings
the water to a fierce boil,
For me, another
prepares a hearth of gold.

A traveler will recall

my voice in a distant land,
Even if he's traded
me for the heat cicada.
I don't know who planed
my poor violin,
but I know that I'm rich
as a cicada in songs.

How many Russian consonants

in my midnight language,
How many sayings
I place in the bast box
So a child can rummage
In this box of bast,
In the old oven violin
with its sole brass string.

You can't really hear me,

my voice like a clock
Behind a wall, but take heed
and I'll lead you.
I'll rouse the whole house:
I'm the night watchman. Arise!
Your people across the river
will trumpet their reply.

Valya's Willow (1958)

Before the war Valya walked along the creek,

Where a willow grew for who knows who.

Though why it lay on the creek, no one knew

Valya owned that willow.

Killed in action, Valya came back

Under his willow, in his military cloak.

Valya's willow,
Valya's willow,
Like a white boat floating on the creek.

My sight, which was my power... (1977)

My sight, which was my power, now blurs

Two invisible diamond spears;
My hearing subsides, full of ancient thunder
And the breathing of the house of my father.
The knots of tough muscles slacken
Like grey oxen, lax in the ploughed field;
The wings behind my shoulders yield
No light when evening darkens.

I am a candle. I burned at the feast.

Gather my wax when morning arrives
So that this page will prompt you
How to be proud, and how to weep,
How to give away the last third
Of happiness, and to die with ease
And beneath a temporary roof
To burn posthumously, like a word.

Translated from the Russian by Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev

I learned the grass as I began to write

Translated by Philip Metres; Dimitri Psurtsev

I learned the grass as I began to write,

And the grass started whistling like a flute.
I gathered how color and sound could join
And when the dragonfly whirred up his hymn,
Passing through green frets like a comet, I knew
A tear was waiting in each drop of dew.
Knew that in each facet of the huge eye,
In each rainbow of brightly churring wings,
Dwells the burning word of the prophet

By some miracle I found Adams secret.

I loved my tormenting task, this intricate

Placing of words, fastened by their light,
Riddle of vague feeling and a simple answer
To the mind. In truth I thought truth appeared.
My tongue was true, like a spectral analysis,
And words gathered around my feet to listen.

Whats more, my friend, youre right to say

I heard one-quarter the noise, saw half the light,
But I did not debase the grasses, or family,
Or insult the ancestral earth by being blithe,
And as long as I worked on earth, accepted
A gift of coldest spring water and fragrant bread,
Above me unfathomable sky still stood,
And stars tumbled around my head.

First Dates

Each moment of our dates, not many,

We celebrated as an Epiphany.
Alone in the whole world.
More daring and lighter than a bird
Down the stairs, like a dizzy apparition,
You came to take me on your road,
Through rain-soaked lilacs,
To your own possession,
To the looking glass world.

As night descended
I was blessed with grace,
The altar gate opened up,
And in the darkness shining
And slowly reclining
Was your body naked.
On waking up I said:
God bless you!
Although I knew how daring and undue
My blessing was: You were fast asleep,
Your closed eyelids with the universal blue
The lilac on the table so strained to sweep.
Touched by the blue, your lids
Were quite serene, your hand was warm.

And rivers pulsed in crystal slits,

Mountains smoked, and oceans swarmed.

You held a sphere in your palm,
Of crystal; on your throne you were sleeping calm.
And, oh my God! -
Belonging only to me,
You woke and at once transformed
The language humans speak and think.
Speech rushed up sonorously formed,
With the word you so much reformed
As to evolve a new sense meaning king.

And suddenly all changed, like in a trance,

Even trivial things, so often used and tried,
When standing tween us, guarding us,
Was water, solid, stratified.
It carried us I dont know where.
Retreating before us, like some mirage,
Were cities, miraculously fair.
Under our feet the mint grass spread,
The birds were following our tread,
The fishes came to a river bend,
And to our eyes the sky was open.

Behind us our fate was groping,

Like an insane man with a razor in his hand.