The hope a mooncalf follows
is sacrifice for slaughter,
and yet the wings of swallows
still skip across the water. 

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Night has come, eager to shed its skin
For chills in the drowsy dew. Oak sighs,
Blindly believes in Thyme, believes in
The power of Thyme—over the skies.

Light-by-light, light dies in a dim glade—
And light’s death moves a wood to sorrow.
Midnight expires before a gate,
But the gate—silvers with tomorrow.

Where’s the untrod way? And where the trod?
Where—breath after death? Pain—after dying?
So there is no breath and there is no God?
Not anything—yet the moon’s shining?

The moon’s a hamlet huge and serene
Where my brother Silver hordes the hush
And outgrows himself in his own dream
And paints himself with a silver brush.

And so he’s a poet—a bad wight!
A connoisseur of rare wines and mist,
A dream-fawning boy in the wrong light,
A bustling tune eternity kissed.

In rhymed nets he catches silver pups,
And silver apples and silver weeds—
And tosses tatters of silver hush
Onto moon meadows, or primal meads.

‘Death!’—he says—’Dark will overhear us!
Don’t mock heaven, or it will roil!’—
And tosses tatters of deep-blue hush
Onto moon toil, or pre-toil.

‘I breathe forth’—he says—’fog in a rush
And know God’s—tears in a blizzard’s hold!’—
And tosses tatters of golden hush
Onto moon gold, or ancestral gold.

It’s a hilly, marshy and valed place
With deep-blued Danubes and deep-blued Niles,
And like a stage sans actors, empty space
Despairs in the spotlight—down dark aisles.

And Silver whispers in the back rows:
‘Dark does not live by light alone—
Everyone’s unhappy to the bone,
Yet why one silvers?—Nobody knows.

‘Ere death turns the first fathering thought
Of my soul and my tears into dark—
May the golden grinding-wheel of naught
Dust my eyes with a myriad stars!’—

And as he says this—naught reveals bright
Twinkling fangs—evil and sincere—
And one more nova wanes in the night—
And one more God dies in the stratosphere.


after the Polish of Boleslaw Lesmian (1877-1937)
translated by Leo Yankevich
first appeared in The Susquehanna Quarterly

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© by Leo Yankevich