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Moscow Drizzle

by Osip Mandelstam

translated from the Russian by Svetlana Lavochkina


hands out its sparrow coolness
in such a parsimonious way:
a bit to us, a bit to bushes,
a bit to cherries on the tray.

And in the dark, it starts to simmer—
the frolic of the light tea leaves,
as if an airy anthill banquet
sped in high gear in somber green.

A vineyard of fresh drizzle droplets
moves in the juicy greensward,
as if the wet, duck-footed Moscow
unfurled a chilly orchard!

Osip Mandelstam was born into a Polish-Jewish family in what was then the Russian Empire. He became one of the great poets of Russia’s Silver Age, with a keen sense of the melodies of spoken language. By the 1920s, he was shunned by the Soviet establishment for refusing to write in praise of the state. He died in a prison camp in Siberia in 1938; his poetry and prose was preserved by his wife and friends and published in New York in a collected edition in 1955.

Svetlana Lavochkina is a Ukrainian-born novelist and poetry translator residing in Leipzig, Germany. Her work has appeared in Witness, Drunken Boat, Circumference, Eclectica, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She was a prize winner in the Paris Literary Prize 2013, run by Shakespeare and Company. Her debut novel, Zap, was shortlisted for Tibor & Jones Pageturner Prize 2015. (8/2016)


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