The thing that makes us light

There's a great collection of Russian poetry called The Stray Dog Cabaret translated by Paul Schmidt that I turned back to this week. I kept thinking: Sergei Esenin's suicide and strangely lovely last poem (written in blood); Vladimir Mayakovsky's response to it ("In this life, to die is not hard/to build life is notably harder"); Mayakovsky's suicide (it's said he shot himself in the heart) and his last poem; Marina Tsvetaeva's response to Esenin and Mayakovsky ("they'll never get along/On Pasternak alone!"); and then Boris Pasternak's poem to Tsvetaeva after her suicide ("In the silence of your departure/there is reproof you do not say"). Their words were just circling around in my head. But on this sunny, mild Saturday, it's actually a poem by Osip Mandelstam that I've been re-reading. He wrote it one year before he died in a camp:

All I want to do is

escape the madness here.

To rise into the light

where I can disappear.

Where you can be like light---

and happiness is mine!---

and learn from every star

what it means to shine.

All I want to say is,

the whispering you hear---

that's the sound of light

I whisper in your ear.

The thing that makes us light

the thing that makes us shine

is that I whisper words

and that this voice is mine.