A Winter Story
Winter falls. The streets are frozen, still.
To keep my balance, I pick up a pen.
I have it in mind to sketch
a neighbour. Careless, capless,
he sets out to visit a girl, who lives
closeby. As he hurries, each step
fractures the thin ice into a star.
Her tomcat, the colour of ash,
takes against the guest from the start.
He pads away to the balcony
to watch linen, stiff with cold, beat
against the window pane.
Such jealousy on account
of his mistress's sparkling eyes!
He'd rather watch those broken stars,
the leafless tree, the sky
with its abandoned look.
And there, in the room,
behind her tom's huffy back,
the girl is flying like a bird,
the girl is a tree casting blossom
everywhere it goes -
“What for?” says the cat.
“Who for?” says the cat.
And she pours a splash of cherry jam
into the snow-drift of my winter verse.
History of One Death
March! the sky said. Spring! said the sky.
But still our hero was going to die.
His depression was quite hopeless, acute.
He watched, through the white window frame,
Trees shaking their branches in the wind,
Rain falling on the senseless world.
But during the whole, long week,
Just like always, he ate, he smoked, he read -
As if this weren't his real end,
As if Death were a game of Let's Pretend.
Or, as if Death were an express train
And he the smallest of stations -
As if Death might bid him Goodbye,
Death, the express train, pass him by.
For all that, he waited, sensing his time,
Fear building in the hollow of his heart.
He felt the world – the touch of it, the torment of it -
Melt like snow on his bloodless lips.
A Winter Story and The History of One Death, versions by Tom Pow and Alina Talybova, from translations by Tamara Vereskunova.
Alina Talybova worked with Tom Pow at Smolenice Castle, Slovakia,
as part of a Language Across Frontiers translation workshop, 7-14 July 2012.