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Family Graveyard
In memory of Robert Lowell

You came through the gate at Peredelkino,
Head to one side, cheek pressed to your shoulder
As though supporting an unseen violin.
A lost violin. And now I want to hear it.

At Peter's house you went in squinting.
Stood by a notch hacked on the door there
And fit yourself under it,
Trying on what remained of great Peter.

How emptiness resounds where a body was!
A new shadow stands under the notch now.
Boughs above the graveyard are bare.
And that lost violin cries out.

Cloaked in woods, a family graveyard.
Your mother and father. But where are you?
As in books with markers removed
We can no longer find our place.

How is it, Robert, in your new wilderness?
We all carry our graveyards within us.
And how can we name the center of sorrow
In this void that rushes so quickly by?
The name you wore is worn by stone.

So you've won your way through the maze.
And that shadow under the notch, is it you?
From Pasternak's rowan-tree I bring this branch
For whatever good such things may do.


From Andrei Voznesensky, Nostalgia for the Present. Translated from the Russian by James Sallis. First published in the International Poetry Review.

Jim has published translations of the poetry of, among others, Raymond Queneau, Blaise Cendrars, Yves Bonnefoy, Pablo Neruda, Francis Ponge, Jacques Dupin, and Marcelin Pleynet. He has also translated work by Russian authors Mikhail Lermontov, Boris Pasternak, and Aleksandr Pushkin, and Polish writer Marek Hlasko.

Jim's translation of Raymond Queneau's novel, Saint Glinglin (Dalkey Archive Press, 1993; 2000), met with widespread acclaim.


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