I was a child in the churning world,
Flinching at the unflinching sentries,
Terrified of the all-eyed oysters.
Nothing in me, if I was in me, wanted that.
To pose under the portico in a nimbus
Of self and with a dead animal for a hat,
To hear the minksqueaking pitter-pat of a little gypsy girl,
Her firelithe body eating money by the lemon river.
A child could feel it, the age’s blade being sharpened . . .
And so I learned, and painfully earned, on the beaches of the
The European allure of sorrow
Sensualized in quotations, flirtations, some random clavicle
Cutting through me like a scalpel.
A man returned, or almost . . .
Petersburg, pitiless city,
With your fire-scarred towers and frostburned poor,
Your insolent adolescence,
Your furious frivolous doom,
What ancient claim do you make on me?
A child enchanted by a moonskin nude
Astride a storybook stallion cries out her name
To a man muttering through old streets near dawn
Godiva, good-bye Godiva, Godiva Godvia gone . . .
— Osip Mandelstam