To Anatoly Marienhof
Crazy confusion, blood-soaked and grim! What are you? Death? Or the healing of cripples? Lead me to his presence, lead me to him, I want to see the man in the thick of it. For three days and nights your camp I've been seeking. North clouds were stone-grey and thunderous. Praise to him! Even if he's not Peter! The rabble adore his mettle and guts. For three days and nights along paths I stumbled, In salt lakes my eyes sought success in vain. My hair, like straw, by the wind was ruffled And thoroughly flailed by chains of rain. An embittered heart, though, will never be baffled, It's no easy task to chop off my head. Dawn over Orenburg, a red-haired camel, Gave me sunrise milk and I was fed. Its firm cool udder in the twilight dim I pressed, like bread, to my eyelids. Quickly Lead me to his presence, lead me to him, I want to see the man in the thick of it. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Where is he? Surely he must be here? The heart I bear is heavier than boulders. Folk have forgotten me, that much is clear - Khlopusha, the villain and desperado! Laugh away, fellow! Sleuths of quality Are sent on your dismal camp to spy. I've been a jailbird and a convict, A murderer and a forger was I. But, as you know, always sooner or later The hour of reckoning waits with a snare. They clapped me in irons, tore off the nostrils Of this peasant lad from the land of Tver. For ten long years - Ten - want a bet on it? - I was convict or vagabond, down on my luck. This warm flesh of mine was worn by a skeleton For plucking, as down from a swan is plucked. It mattered not a damn that I wished to live. That my heart was weary of flinching at cruelty. Dear fellow, To the landlord a peasant is Of no more concern than sheep or poultry. I prayed to the yellow coffin of dawn, My fetters with blue hands I was sucking... Then... three nights ago... Governor Rheinsdorp Like a blown leaf Into my cell came rushing... "Listen to me, prisoner! (His very phrase) For your' ears only is what I'm saying. A thunderstorm rages in the feather-grass plains From which all Imperial Russia is shaking. There's an upstart there, a thief and rogue, Out to rouse Russia with a horde of robbers. Like a forest monastery's Birch-wood domes Heads of the nobility his axe is toppling. Surely you could bury a knife in his back? (His very phrase, that's how he put it.) For services rendered your freedom I'll grant And not stones but silver shall line your pocket." For three days and nights, through ways dark and grim His camp I've been seeking without a guide. Quickly Lead me to his presence, lead me to him, I want to see the man in the thick of it!