So you will never find me

 

So you will never find me—

In this life—with a sharp and invisible

Fence, I encircle myself

 

With honeysuckle, bind myself,

With hoarfrost, cover myself.

 

So you will never hear me

At night—with a crone’s subtlety:

With reticence—I fortify myself.

 

With rustlings, bind myself,

With silkiness, cover myself.

 

So you neither flower nor mold in me

Overmuch—in my undergrowth: in my books

I mislay, I bury you, alive:

 

With fabrications, bind you,

With any pretense, cover you.

 

25 June 1922

 

—Translated from the Russian by Mary Jane White

 

*Translator’s note: This work is from a cycle of poems Tsvetaeva titled To Helicon in 1940, nearly twenty years after its composition, while trying to put together a book for publication.

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Mary Jane White is a poet and translator who has received National Endowment of the Arts fellowships for her work in both. Her Tsvetaeva translations have appeared in the New England Review, the Hudson Review, and the American Poetry Review, and in the anthology Poets Translate Poets (Syracuse University Press, 2013). 

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892–1941) was born in Moscow. Widely considered one of the most renowned poets of twentieth-century Russia, she also wrote verse plays and prose pieces. Tsvetaeva lived through and wrote about the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Moscow famine that followed. In an attempt to save her younger daughter Irina from starvation, she placed her in a state orphanage in 1919, but the plan failed and Irina died of hunger. Tsvetaeva left Russia in 1922 and lived with her family, in increasing poverty, in Paris, Berlin, and Prague before returning to Moscow in 1939. After her husband Sergei Efron and her older daughter Ariadna were arrested on espionage charges in 1941, Sergei was executed and Ariadna was sent to a work camp. Later that year, Tsvetaeva took her own life.