Power

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
Black Sea,
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
(January 1931)

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