The Accounting



Life has returned with just as little reason
As when it was so strangely once curtailed.
I find myself in that same ancient alley,
At the same hour, and on a summer's day.

People are the same, with the same worries,
And the sunset fires have not yet cooled –
Just as once that fatal evening nailed them
Hurriedly to the Manege's wall.

Women of the street in simple outfits
Roam the alleys, wearing out their soles,
Later to be crucified in attics,
Splayed and martyred under iron roofs.

One of them, appearing in a doorway,
Makes her way with weary steps and slow,
Climbs the stairway from the semi-basement,
Then aslant across the yard she goes.

Once more I make ready my excuses,
And again I find myself unmoved.
But her next-door neighbor has departed
Through the alley – we find ourselves alone.

Don't weep. Don't purse your swollen lips.
Don't press those buds together,
You'll crack apart the dried-up scab
Of our last springtime's fever.

And take your hand from off my breast,
We're cables at high tension.
Look out, for we shall meet again,
Whatever our intention.

Years pass, you'll marry, then forget
Your present disarrangement,
For womanhood's a great exploit,
A feat to set men raving.

Before a woman's wondrous hands,
That female spine and shoulders
I pay a servant's homage due,
Eternally devoted.

And yet, however firm the bond
Of nighttime's anguished fetter,
Repulsion's power is no less strong,
The urge to flee still beckons….


Boris Pasternak

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