‘When Psyche-life follows Persephone…’
When, through translucent forest, Psyche-life
follows Persephone down into the dark,
a sightless swallow flings itself in her path
with angry tenderness, and a twig in leaf.
The shades rush round to greet the visitor.
They cry their miseries to a new-found friend
and wring their feeble hands in bewilderment
and timid longing, stretching out to her.
One offers her a mirror, one, a phial of scent.
The soul’s a woman, you know, the small things matter.
Over the sterile woods, their voices patter
like dry rain-drops, equally transparent.
The soul’s confused by all this tender fussing.
The glassy oaks, she thinks, must be a dream;
she breathes onto the mirror, takes her time
fumbling out her coin for the misty crossing.
Bezdelki, with Morphine
I don’t know what you dreamt of – your first fuck
or the last teaspoon-sip of strawberry yoghurt?
Perhaps you waved your grey and faithful stick
or some enchanting “find”, some tiny engine-part.
Your breath came fast and steadily; when less
than audible, I thought it only sleep’s
new, uneventful phase. Later, I fetched the glass
and held it to your mouth. I kissed your lips
and felt, this time, no little answering pull,
the reflex of reflection, two-as-one.
(Don’t worry: shades, you know, are kissable.)
I woke my phone. The compact’s swing-glass shone.
I don’t know in what currency you paid,
or if you saw the leafless crystal oaks,
or if a mist came down, or a mist cleared,
as the ferryman and you exchanged small jokes…
Thus Psyche-life, who studied animation
at a fine film-school, storyboards the sequel,
a short montage for the remotest reel
far beyond metaphor and adaptation.
She’s your material girl: there’s lots to do.
She finishes the yoghurt, washes spoons
and sheets, dusts mirrors, picks up small possessions
like clouds, and watches them turn into you.
Poems from Bezdelki: Small Things, The Emma Press, 2018. Copyright 2018 by Carol Rumens, reprinted by permission of the author.
The first poem is a rendition of a poem by Mandelshtam, Kogda Psiheja-zhizn’ spuskaetsya k tenjam. (For a variant translation, see an earlier CI publication)