The grey day drags on,
Rain streams cheerlessly
Across the porch and front door
And into my open windows.
Behind the fence along the road
The public garden is flooded.
Like beasts in their lair,
The clouds sprawl about in disorder.
In such bad weather I imagine
A book about the beauty of the world. 10
I draw a wood nymph
For you on the title page.
Marina, it’s been a long time,
But it wouldn’t be that much trouble
To transfer your neglected ashes
The ceremony for your transfer
I conceived last year
Above the snows of a deserted river reach,
Where barges winter over in the ice. 20
By until it’s been as difficult
To imagine you dead
As to imagine you as a miserly millionaire
Among starving sisters.
What can I do to please you?
Give me a message somehow.
In the silence of your departure
There’s tacit reproach.
Losses are always mysterious.
In futile searches for an answer 30
I worry without result:
Death has no outline.
Here everything is half-word and shadows,
Slips of the tongue and self-deception,
And only faith in resurrection
Gives some kind of sign.
Winter is like a magnificent wake.
Going outdoors from the house,
Adding korinka towards dusk,
Pouring wine—that’s Kutia. 40
An apple tree in a snowbank in front of the house,
And the town in a snowdrift—
This whole year these seemed to me
To be your huge gravestone.
With your face turning to God,
You stretch out to him from Earth,
As in the days when yours
Still had not reached its total. 48
Boris Pasternak, 1942
Translated by John Cobley with help from Olga Bakal
17-20 “It began with Pasternak saying that whenever he sees the ice-bound barges on the Kama, he always thinks of Marina Tsvetaeva who said just before leaving here that she would rather freeze into the ice of the Kama in Chistopol than go away.” Alexander Gladkov, Meetings with Pasternak, p. 77.
39-40 Korinka. A type of Russian grape, used here as an ingredient (substitute for raisins) in Kutia, a traditional porridge served for a wake.