* * *
Keep my words forever, because of their taste of unhappiness and smoke,
Because of their resin of circling patience, and because my conscience is the tar of work.
The water in the Novgorod wells must be black and sweet,
So that by Christmas the star with all its seven fins may be reflected in it.
In return for this, my father, my friend and coarse helper,
I, the unacknowledged brother, a splinter from the family tree,
Promise to build such stick wooden frames for the wells
In which the Tartars may lower the Russian princes down them in a bucket.
If only these ancient executioner's blocks loved me!
Suddenly, aiming to the death, they are knocking skittles about in the garden.
For this I shall wear a shirt of iron all my life,
And for the axecutions of Tsar Peter I shall find an axe-handle in the forest.
May 3, 1931
© Richard Shaw, Translation. Can be reproduced if non-commercial.