The Curtain

By MARINA TSVETSAEVA

 

Waterfalls of curtain like spray –
Pine needles–flame–shimmer.
The curtain has no secrets from the stage:
You are the stage, I am the curtain.

Behind painted vines (in the lofty
Theater–amazement ran riot)
I conceal the hero’s tragedy,
The time of action–and–the seat.

In waterfalls of rainbow, an avalanche
Of laurels (he expected them! he knew!)
I veil you from the audience
(I mesmerize them with my sway!),

My prize! Hid in a painted forest
Of potions, grasses, stalks…
(Now behind the shaking curtain
The tragedy–moves–like a storm!)

Weep, loges! Panic, gallery!
It’s time now! Start the play!
The curtain–moves–like a sail,
The curtain–moves–like a breast.
With all my strength I shield you
Sanctum.–But a rope slips!
Above a la–cerated Phaedra
The curtain–whips–like a griffin.

Strip the wound! Stare! It bleeds?
Then have the trough prepared!
I’ll draw this royal wound to the end!
(The hall is pale, the curtain is red).
Then, a soothing shroud, it falls,
Rippling like a hero’s banner.
The curtain has no secrets–from the hall
(Life is the audience, I am the curtain).

Poems translated from the Russian by Catherine Ciepiela

 

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) was one of Russian poetry’s most brilliant and tragic figures. She is the author of scores of lyric and narrative poems, plays, and essays, many written in European exile after the Bolshevik Revolution.

Catherine Ciepiela writes about and translates modern Russian poetry. She is the author of The Same Solitude: Boris Pasternak and Marina Tsvetaeva and co-editor of The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems, by translator Paul Schmidt.

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The Curtain

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