Homesickness









Homesickness! Long ago revealed
as fraudulent delusion.
I don't care where
I am alone. It doesn't matter

across what streets, into what house
I drag myself, and my shopping basket--
a house that doesn't know I'm there,
like a hospital or barracks.

I don't care who sees me lie
like a caged lion, snarling slowly,
nor from what society they
thrust me, force me out into

my own internal solitude,
a polar bear in tropic water.
I don't care where I am hurt,
nor where I am insulted.

I do not love my native tongue,
its weak, breast-fed attraction.
I am indifferent to the words
in which someone misunderstands me

(someone who reads magazines
and thrives on gossip columns).
He is Twentieth-Century Man--
my own age was never numbered.

Struck dumb, a rotting log
that marked a path now forgotten.
And I don't care. All things are strange.
All facts. And perhaps what once

was closest is strangest of all.
All signs upon me, all traces
and dates seem wiped away.
A soul. Born. Somewhere. Or other.

My homeland cared so little for me
any clever sleuth
may search my soul--
he will find no birthmark.

Each house is strange, each altar bare.
And I don't care. It doesn't matter.
But if, beside the autumn road, I see
a rowan-tree . . .

"тоска по родине!"
Marina Tsvetaeva (May 3, 1934)
Translation by Paul Schmidt

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) is one of the poets who made me want to study Russian. This is one of her best known poems, and Paul Schmidt's English version reproduces both Tsvetaeva's depth of feeling and the disarming freedom of her associative leaps.


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