Roman Elegies
translated by RACHEL COHEN


Augusta, Lesbia, Julia, Livia, Messalina—
Breasts, the mount of Venus, soft to the touches—
Heaven-seared, the clay calls the hand to linger,
Flesh becoming anonymous like the timeless statues.
You are Immortality. Those who knew your bodies,
Came to stand as the monuments: Trajan, Ovid, Catullus ...
The delight in the faith that you offer the short-lived goddess
Outstrips what is due to the ones who, eternal, rule us.
White on white, like Malevich had always dreamt it,
Tender thigh, and the belly, so gently round.
Of a summer evening, I, the most mortal ambler,
Mid the ruins protruding their ribs from beneath the ground,
Drink, avid-mouthed, the wine cupped by the collarbones,
While the sky has paled to the skin's smooth tone.
Up point the hardened nubs of the soft-lit domes,
Like the teats of a she-wolf who sleeps, having suckled the twins of Rome.


  Лесбия, Юлия, Цинтия, Ливия, Микелина.
  Бюст, причинное место, бедра, колечки ворса.
  Обожженная небом, мягкая в пальцах глина --
  плоть, принявшая вечность как анонимность торса.
  Вы -- источник бессмертья: знавшие вас нагими
  сами стали катуллом, статуями, трояном,
  августом и другими. Временные богини!
  Вам приятнее верить, нежели постоянным.
  Слався, круглый живот, лядвие с нежной кожей!
  Белый на белом, как мечта Казимира,
  летним вечером я, самый смертный прохожий,
  среди развалин, торчаших как ребра мира,
  нетерпеливым ртом пью вино из ключицы;
  небо бледней щеки с золотистой мушкой.
  И купoла смотрят вверх, как сосцы волчицы,
  накормившей Рема и Ромула и уснувшей.

JOSEPH BRODSKY (1940-1996), a Russian and American poet and essayist, a 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature recipient. Brodsky emigrated to the US in 1972, when the Soviet government expelled him for his "anti-Soviet" writing.

RACHEL COHEN practices international criminal law in Canada. Her writing has been published by Zoetic Press, Adelaide Literary JournalMetamorphosesAether & Ichor, Manawaker Anthology and others. See more of her work at 
The Adirondack Review