Goldfinch, friend, I'll cock my head —
Let's check the world out, just me and you:
This winter's day pricks like chaff;
Does it sting your eyes too?
Boat-tailed feathers yellow-black,
Sopped in color beneath your beak,
Do you get, you goldfinch you,
Just how you flaunt it?
What's he thinking, little airhead —
White and yellow, black and red!
Both eyes check both ways — both! —
Will check no more — he's bolted!
December 9-27, 1936
O S I P M A N D E L S T A M
translated by Andrew Davis
New York Review of Books 2016
Mandelstam wrote this beauty two years before his death in 1938, still a young enough man. Fearless and unpopular with the Soviet authorities (Stalin), he was sentenced to hard labor in Siberia and last seen in a transit camp near Vladivostok.