Because I had let go of your arms

Thursday, March 16, 2006
Because I had let go of your arms,
Because I betrayed your salty tender lips,
I must wait for dawn in the dense acropolis.
How I abhor these weeping ancient timbers!

Achaean men fit out the Horse in the dark,
They hack into the walls with their toothed saws,
Nothing can quiet the blood's dry murmur,
And you have no name, no sound, no copy.

How could I think you would come back, how could I dare?
Why did I break with you before it was time?
The gloom hasn't lightened and the cock hasn't crowed,
The hot axe hasn't yet split the wood.

The walls ooze resin like a transparent tear,
The town feels its wooden ribs,
And blood has rushed to the ladders and taken it by storm,
The men have been enticed three times in dreams.

Where is dear Troy? Where the imperial, where the maidenly house?
Priam's lofty starling-coop shall be a ruin.
And arrows fall like dry, wooden rain
And other arrows grow from the ground like hazel-nut trees.

The last star-pricks are dying out painlessly,
As morning, a grey swallow, raps at the window.
And lethargic day, like an ox waking in straw,
Stirs on the streets, tousled by long sleep.

Osip Mandelstam (1920)

Translated by James Greene