You, with square windows,
Squat houses in rows,
Hello gentle,
Hello winter,
Petersburg, Petersburg,
A thousand hellos.


To stick in the instant
Like a fish,
Like a dead fish,
Like winter-picked ribs

That up through the ice
Upset the blades;
To sing flinging
Skates down skate-cluttered hallways . . .


Once upon a time
In a time still near
A potter and his fire
Floated like a tiny pyre
Farther and farther
On the red-shadowed water.

Tested by darkness,
Wrested from darkness,
A simple cup,
A plain well-made plate,
Sold on the stone stoop
Of any street.


Walk, work boots.
Get going, goners.
Past the Guest Yard,
The fields packed hard,

Where the ripe mandarin
Peels itself for your pleasure
And a measure of coffee
Crackles ecstatic

In your hands,
Smuggled from the cold
And ground to golden,


Chocolate chocolate
Brick brick
House house
Sweet Petersburg!


And the living rooms
With their pulseless silence,
All the unplunked pianos,
Sunken chairs, mingled airs
Of science and séance
As the doctors are treating people
— or maybe feeding people? —
With the Neva‘s deathless prose . . .


After the bath,
After the opera,
After the after,

It’s all the same,
Whoever one was,
Wherever one goes,

The cluelessness
And the youlessness
As the last tram

Lets one in,
So warm the eyes
So easily close . . .

— Osip Mandelstam

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