POEM OF THE HILL
By Marina Tsvetaeva
Love, do my words startle you?
Parting makes us
All talk like drunks
And love solemnity . . .
You shrug—the load slips off your shoulders;
But I will sing about sorrow:
About my hill!
Not today, nor ever tomorrow shall I be able
To fill its caldera.
And I will sing about sorrow
At the top of my hill.
My hill was the body of a recruit
Brought down by a shell.
My hill wanted the lips
Of a virgin, my hill
–An ocean in the ear’s helix,
A sudden-bursting hurrah!—
My hill strove and stood ground.
My hill was thunder! My breast,
A prize Titans advanced upon!
(The last house on my hill—
My hill was—worlds!
Now God exacts his price for my world!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
My sorrow began with my hill.
My hill above town.
No Parnassus, no Sinai,
Just my bare, barracks
Hill! Right face! Fire!
Why, to my eyes, then
(As it was October, not May)
Was my hill—Paradise?
Offered on your palm:
Paradise—Don’t touch it; it’s hot!
My hill with its rutted slope
Collapsed beneath our feet.
With the paws of a Titan
With its bushes and conifers—
My hill raked our coats,
O, far from a veritable
Paradise—blast after blast!
My hill threw us on our backs,
Commanding: Lie there!
Dumbstruck at the onslaught,
–How? To this day, I don’t care!—
My hill, my procuress—opened
Its holy relics, pointing: Here . . .
Persephone’s pomegranate seed,
How can I forget you in these hard winter frosts?
I remember your lips, a warm bi-valve shell
Half-open on my own.
Persephone ruined by a seed!
The stubborn crimson of your lips,
And your eyelashes’ separate tips
Enmeshed in the gold, separated
tips of a star.
Passion—is no trick, and no fiction!
It doesn’t lie—just don’t try to make it last!
O, if only we had come into this world
As commonplace lovers!
O, if only we had been sensible and unceremonious:
This would be just—my hill; this, simply—my mound . . .
They say—the greater the pull to the edge
The higher the precipice.
In masses of brown heather,
Among islands of weeping conifer . . .
(At the height of delirium—
Above the level of others’ humdrum lives)
–Take me, then! I’m yours . . .
Lacking the tender mercy of family,
Lacking the prattle of little mouths—we grieve!
That we came into this world
As larger-than-life lovers!
My hill grieved (and hills do grieve
With bitter clay at the hour of parting),
My hill grieved for the dove-grey
Tenderness of our undiscovered mornings.
My hill grieved for our companionship:
For the immutable kinship of our lips!
My hill said: from each shall it be rent
According to his tears.
And my hill grieved that life is a moveable
Feast, a continual bartering of hearts!
And my hill grieved: if only she were
With child—he could let Hagar go!
And my hill said it was a demon’s
Scheme, to toy with us each, in turn.
My hill spoke. We were mute.
We left it to my hill to judge.
My hill grieved that only sadness
Would come—of this day’s Blood and Fire.
My hill said it would not let us go,
That it would not let you live with another!
My hill grieved that only smoke
Would come—of this day’s Empire and Rome.
My hill said we would live with others
(Not that I envy them, the others!)
My hill grieved for the terrible weight
Of vows too late to be foresworn.
My hill grieved that our knot was ancient—
Gordian: duty and passion.
My hill grieved for our sorrow:
Tomorrow: Not now! When over our heads—
Is no momento set, just—this sea!
Tomorrow—when we may come to know.
A sound . . . as if someone were just—
Well . . . weeping nearby?
My hill grieved that we must go down
Separately, through such mud—
Back into life, which we all know is:
A rabble—a market—a barracks.
And my hill said—all poems
About hills—are written—like this.
My hill was the heave
Of Atlas, of a groaning Titan.
My hill will be the pride of a city
Where from morning to night we’ve
Played out our lives—trumped, in spades!
Passionate, we try stubbornly not to be,
Not to fall to the level of a bearish roar,
Not to rise to the spectacle of the town-clock’s twelve apostles—
Honor my dark grotto.
(I was a grotto—and waves leapt into it!)
Our final hand, as we were dealt it—
Remember—outside of town?
My hill was—worlds!
All gods take vengeance
On their likenesses!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
My sorrow began with my hill.
My hill will be—my monument.
Years will pass. And lo—the aforesaid
Stone is tamely replaced—with a flat slab.
Over my hill they will build summer-cottages,
They will cut it into little fenced lots.
In these outskirts they will claim
The air is better and life easier.
They will begin to cut out their plots
And raise their joists, their timbers,
And straighten out my hilly passages,
All my ravines—filled and leveled—
Because some people at least must have
A home for their happiness, and happiness—at home!
Happiness—at home! Love without illusion!
Without torment—(without fighting!)
I must be a woman—and endure!
(Times were, when he came, there
Was happiness—in my home!) Love, unsharpened
By parting or the knife.
On the ruins of our happiness
A city will rise: of husbands and wives.
And in our same blessed air,–
If you can manage it—fuck it!
Small shopkeepers on holiday
Will eat through their profits,
Laying out floors and passageways,
So long as every line—leads them home!
Because some people at least need
A roof with a stork’s nest on it!
Still, under the weight of their foundations,
My hill will not forget—our playfulness—
Hills of times—lie buried in my hill!
Walking its persistent gullies
Summer people will learn too late:
This is no little hill, overgrown with families—
This is a crater, in current circulation!
Grapevines won’t hold back—Vesuvius!
Flax can’t tie down—my Giant!
A single mad kiss would be enough—
To set the vineyards stirring with lions
Who will let roar—let vomit
My molten lava of hatred:
Your daughters—be sluts;
And your sons—poets!
Your daughter—be delivered of a bastard!
Your son—be wasted on gypsies!
You will never be led by green pastures,
You, who feed on my blood!
Firmer than a corner-stone,
Than a deathbed vow: I say:
There will be no earthly happiness
For you, you ants, on my hill!
God knows what hour, what day,
You will see, you and all your family,
My inordinate, my huge
Hill is Monument—
to his Seventh Commandment!
Gaps in my memory—cataracts
In my eyes: back of seven veils.
I fail to recall any detail of you.
A white blank where your features were
Unmarked. You as a whole—a white
Gap. (My soul—is one unbroken
Wound.) To chalk-mark the least detail—
Would be the poor work of a tailor.
Our firmament—with its solid feet.
Our ocean—its assemblage of spray?!
Unmarked: Likely—you were unique—
On the whole.
Love—is a connection, not an investigation.
Black hair, possibly auburn—
Let the curious neighbor say: he could see.
Is it passion’s work—to take people apart?
Am I your watchmaker, your surgeon?
You: a circle: complete and entire:
Entire whirlwind, complete stupor.
I can’t recall you apart
From love. There’s an equivalent.
(Over my bed’s masses of sleepy down:
My waterfall, its hills of foam—
This is new: strange to my ear,
Instead of: I—your royal: We are . . .)
And still, in my poor, constricted
Life: in my life as it is—
I can’t see you with a single, solitary
Other woman: this
is the vengeance of memory!
January 1-February 1, 1924
Prague. The Hill.