Tomas Venclova - WINTER DIALOGUE

Enter this landscape. Darkness still prevails.
Filled to the brim with voices, though unseen.
The continent takes up arms against the seas.
Across the dunes, the empty highway wails.
A passerby or an angel in the snow
Has left a subtle covered trail behind.
And, in the blackish pane, the seaside's glow
Becomes the bleak Antarctic in our minds.

The chasm, not frozen, froths beneath the land.
The pouring grains of sand pass their first mile.
Sometimes the pier grows vivid, sometimes veiled.
And, menacingly, the winter space expands.
No telegrams, no letters stay behind.
Just photographs. No sound from the transistor.
A candle, you would say, has sealed the time
Of danger with its burning hot wax drippings.

How sonorous the rock, how damp the air.
How mighty the radiation when it forestalls
The dawn! You strain your eyes until the walls.
Church tower, human body turn transparent.
Only the hazy contours of the trees
Stand out against the whiteness. Through the bark.
Even closing your eyes, you almost see
The stubborn, narrow last ring of the trunk.

‘This habit has been trying on my eyes;
In just a minute, I will surely falter.'
‘The prophecy is speaking of another.'
The hoarfrost-covered axis now inclines.
And, at the line of the horizon, where
The ships turn black, where the vibration freezes,
A flame bursts forth from Mars and Jupiter,

Deep in the sluggish sky, above the seaside.
The void extends to the Atlantic sand.
The field gapes like a hall, open and barren.
While January blankets February,
The plain shrinks back from the watery wind.
Past the lagoons, the hills begin to bare
Themselves; a somewhat melted snowdrift stiffens
And darkens in a pit. ‘And what is there?’
‘Again the ports and bays, the mouths of rivers.’

Beneath the screen mesh of the weighty cloud.
Squares, like fish, are glittering and playing.
‘Do you remember what the stars were saying?’
‘This century is managing without
A sign; there’s just statistics.’ ‘Gravity
Of death has fettered person, plant, and thing.
But sprouts burst forth from seed and sacrifice.
And then not all is over, or so I think.’

‘Where is the witness? Still it's not too clear
What separates the real from the imagined;
Perhaps just you and I are on this planet.'
'It seems to me that only you are here.’
‘And what about the third one? Do you mean
That no one hears US talking, or takes part?’
‘There is the firmament and snowy green.
And the voice, at times, lives longer than the heart.’

The stroke of noon brings dark hues to the woods.
When day attains its height, consciousness
Retains light things, brought forth from nothingness
A moment ago, taking the place of words:
A piece of ice, split into particles,
A skeleton of boughs, a brick wall, crumbled
Beside the roadway's bend... Then all is silence
On this side of the sea, and on the other.