Mount Elbrus

Spiderlight, sticky expectant dread:
I turn and turn, only more entangled
In today . . .

We need bread, and we need plain air,
But we need, too, some distant unbreathable peak,
Some eye-annihilating glare . . .

If the ache is nameless, how do I ask for ease?
If the I itself is exile, can the soul survive
Such private ice?

Old touchstone, to touch a stone, but in all that I have known,
Never, not once, such clear
Dreamsweeping distillations of atmosphere . . .

We need poetry to wake the dark we are,
To find us and bind us beyond us
To an age of wakefulness

In the one day’s unentangling sun,
Our breathing easy, ancient, like the pulse and peace
Of iambs counting down to silence.

— Osip Mandelstam
(January 19, 1937)

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