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on the portrait of Joseph Brodsky  
The prize is now yours,
but it is not fame
that brings the velvet touch
back to your calloused hand
marked by so many wounds, no:
it is that little kitten
that you are fondling, sad faced,
on your Stockholm portrait,
she who nestled like Muryonka
in the cradle of your fingers,
(exactly like a Russian kitten,
definitely so!)
I tell you, she, she alone,
could share with you there
those fleeting days
of cold evening-dressed triumph.

Our bed. Lavinia slumbers. Not a stir.
She's younger, firmer-fleshed than you could claim,
yes, but flames that turn the human frame
into an altar, have never burnt in her.

István Baka: Aeneas and Dido
Lavinia bores you, this is obvious.
With every desirous cell
you want your Dido,
me, who is no longer
a young-eyed filly, but you want
me, who is arrival,
me, who is farewell,
me, who had loved you so deeply,
son of distant Troy,
that your brine-bitten beauteous eyes
will be in tears, when they realize
that they will never see me again.
The funeral pyre weeps beneath me,
and you burn with me, my love.
You burn with me although your body will
survive you as your own cold empty shell.


John Donne has sunk in sleep. His verses sleep
His images, his rhymes, and his strong lines
fade out of view…”
Joseph Brodsky, Elegy for John Donne
(transl. by George L. Kline)
Joseph Brodsky retired to rest.
His cradle was a windy, many-named city,
debased daughter of the river Neva.
His resting place is the doges' sea-girt residence.
Worn threadbare by wanderings, his lace-like heart
(beautiful heart, like Venetian railings)
took leave – in great haste – from this world,
but soon two poetess-angels, Anna and Marina
began to mother him there, on the other side,
(Yes, their lips curled in Russian, the language of angels),
followed by his poet-uncle, Auden
with a gentian-blue bunch of solace in his hand.
Finally Rilke came to greet
the son of Petersburg becomingly in Hades,
the son worn out by life so soon.
(When Rilke speaks, German transmutes
into a soft angelic tongue.)
Joseph Brodsky retired to rest
but those four kept rousing him.
They tutored him to think no more of death
and learn from them the art of resurrection.
Joseph Brodsky retired to rest.
But he was not silenced by the grave,
for he had his friends, the four.
He was their ward and, believing or disbelieving,
with beauteous and indomitable lines, he gave
each a new lease of life on this earth.
Translated by Peter Zollman