Mandelstam's Ghost Returns Too Early
to Osip Mandelstam
someone has turned the moon's wick down
and I can't see where the
vague wolves gather
there's tar on the breeze
a perfume from Space
but I'm not the same one
I can't keep it straight
why Song is still caught in
my windy throat
and your smile is ravishing yet snows
on these familiar scenes
the moon's turned up, the earth
less featureless now
is this where we escaped the moat
dripping like trees in the green of summer
by winter canals?
mary angela douglas 16 june 2014
Note on the poem: if you listen carefully you can sense perhaps if not hear the interlocutory presence of Anna Akhmatova to whom, Mandelstam is speaking, or thinks he is speaking.
Whether or not she hears him I do not know. Whether or not she is still on earth herself I do not know but I think this is true. That is the meaning, one of them, of his 'returning too early'.
I imagine her in one version writing at her desk a few years after he has died. But like the notebook variations of, Dostoyevsky, the many pathed woods of possibility, some or all of these versions are true in the labyrinth of Time as long as you do not forget: these poets were on the earth and left their words for you to find...
P.S. the happiest secret of this poem that I am telling only you is that Mandelstam, although confused in the poem does not remember his pain on earth. That is one reason the wolves are vague to him or the wolves are vague because Russia has altered in that way. And Mandelstam has forgotten almost all of his pain on earth, at least, the details as well as Akhmatova's pain, Nadezhda's pain, the pain of all Russia. He remembers escaping although, in the end, he did not. At least, on this side of the equation.
The escape from the moat, a fairytale image. He must have longed to escape so much in reality. But some vestige of pain or the memory of pain remains which is why, there is the image of the summer trees after soft rains by winter canals.
He has not yet forgotten everything.
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Still I Rise
The Road Not Taken
If You Forget Me
Edgar Allan Poe
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
A Dream Within A Dream
Edgar Allan Poe
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821)
(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941)
(1478 - 1581)
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
- Daffodils, William Wordsworth
- Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep, Mary Elizabeth Frye
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe