a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
God help us, the smoke!
— Smoke, God, I can live with! But not — damp!
Moving in with the same complaints that
Made others move out of this apartment:
With the same-old lamp, —
Lamp of a beggar, of a student, of a long commute.
If only there were a small tree
For the children! — And what kind of landlord will we have?
Perhaps one who’s not too demanding, one
Who takes payment in necklaces, in coins, in dribbles,
Unavoidable as fate
Before turned-out pockets.
And what kind of neighbor will we have?
A bachelor might be nice, well, if he’s quiet!
But there’s nothing nice
About this, old — warmed by our breath
House, saturated throughout!
With our mustiness! Like cotton
In my ear — intoning, you will get used to this!
Worn down not by others: but by your own thumb!
If it’s old, it’s old, if rundown, rundown,
And all of it expensive . . . So consider these: just rooms!
How we come to be born into this world
I’ll never know: but this is how we die.
30 September 1922
—translated by Mary Jane White
Mary Jane White is the mother of a 27-year-old son now recovered from early childhood autism, and practiced law for 40 years. She holds an MFA Iowa Writers’ Workshop and two NEA Fellowships, one in poetry and a second in translation. Her translations of Marina Tsvetaeva are included in: Starry Sky to Starry Sky (Holy Cow! Press, 1988) New Year’s, an elegy for Rilke (Adastra Press, 2007); Poems of an Emigrant: After Russia, and three longer poems, Poem of the Hill, Poem of the End, and New Year’s, forthcoming from Adelaide Press (NYC/Lisbon, 2020).