Thursday, February 25, 2016


Voronezh Notebooks


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 
Voronezh Notebooks
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.