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Girlfriend (Podruga)

Translation / My translation of the first three poems of Marina Tsvetaeva's Girlfriend Cycle. These translations appeared in the volume, Queer: A Collection of LGBTQ Writing from Ancient Times to Yesterday edited by Frank Wynne (Head of Zeus Press, 2021)

Are you happy? You wouldn’t say! And for the better—let it be! To me, it seems you’ve kissed too many, There lies your grief.

All the Shakespearean tragic heroines, I see in you. But you, a young and tragic lady No one has saved!

You’ve grown so worn, Repeating that erotic Chatter. How eloquent, That iron band around your bloodless hand.

I love you—sin hangs above you Like a storm cloud! Because you’re venomous, you sting, You’re better than the rest,

Because we are, our lives are different In this darkness, Because—your passionate seductions, And your dark fate,

Because with you, my steep-browed demon There’s no future, And even if I burst above your grave, You can’t be saved!

Because I’m trembling, because can it be true? Is this a dream? Because of the delightful irony That you—are not a he.

—October 16, 1914


Beneath caresses of a soft plaid throw, I summon yesterday . . . a dream? What was it? Who’s the victor? Who, the overthrown?

Rethinking all of it anew, I’m tormenting myself again. And that, for which I have no words, Was . . . love? But can it . . . ?

Who was the hunter? Who—the prey? Oh devil, all of it, it’s upside down! And the Siberian cat, What did he grasp amidst his drawling, purring sounds?

And in this battle of the wills, Who ended up whose tool? Whose heart was it, yours or mine, That flew?

And yet, what was it? What do I long for? What is it that I so regret? I’m still uncertain, did I win? Or was I had?

—October 23, 1914


Today melted today I spent it standing at the window. My gaze had sobered, my chest felt freer, I was pacified again.

I don’t know why, it must be simply That my soul had tired But somehow, I didn’t want to touch that pencil . . . it rebelled.

And so, I stood there—in the fog— So far from any good or evil, Drumming lightly with my finger Against the softly ringing glass.

My soul no better, and no worse Than any passerby—take that one. Than those opaline puddles Where the horizon splattered,

A soaring bird, That unbothered dog running by, Even the singing beggar Didn’t draw tears from my eyes.

Oblivion, oh what a darling art, The soul has long accustomed to it. And some big feeling Was melting in my soul today.

—October 24, 1914

Read the poems in Construction.


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