I Went Sick as a Child

By ARSENY TARKOVSKY

Translated by VALZHYNA MORT

 

             I went sick as a child

with hunger and fear. I’d rip the crust
of my lips—and lick my lips; I recall
the fresh and salty taste.
And I’m walking, I’m walking, walking,
I sit on the steps by the door, I bask,
I walk delirious, as if a rat catcher led me
by my nose into the river, I sit and bask
on the steps; I shiver this way and that.
My mother stands and beckons me, and seems
within my reach, but not:
I’d approach—she stands seven steps away,
and beckons, I’d approach—she stands
seven steps away.
So hot
I got. I unbuttoned my collar, lied down.
Suddenly the trumpets blared, light struck
my eyelids, the horses dashed, my mother
flies above the pavement, beckons me—
then she flew off.
Now, in my dreams
a white hospital stands in an apple orchard,
and a white sheet comes up to my throat,
and a white doctor stares,
and my white sister stands at my feet,
stirring her wings. And so remained.
And my mother came, beckoned me,
and flew off.
Arseny Tarkovsky (1907–1989) was a Soviet poet and translator who successfully published in the1960s through the 1980s. His poems are recited in his son Andrei Tarkovsky’s influential films Stalker, Nostalgia, and The Mirror.

Valzhyna Mort was born in Minsk, Belarus. She is the author two poetry collections, Factory of Tears and Collected Body. A recipient of the Lannan Foundation Fellowship and the Bess Hokin Prize for Poetry, she teaches at Cornell University.

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Emily EverettI Went Sick as a Child

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