The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Len Krisak

Akhmatova: Outing


My feather kissed the carriage roof, and I                      

Glanced for a moment into his eyes.                                

My heart was aching, but couldn’t say why—

Some cause it could not recognize.                                  


The sad night, a cloud-dome fallen on it,

Was calm.  The Bois de Boulogne, I think,

Looked as if someone had drawn it

In an old album in india ink.


Benzene mixed with lilac scent.

A kind of calm, watched guardedly . . .

His hand, almost un-trembling, went

Out from him, and he touched my knee.




Russian text:


Перо задело о верх экипажа.

Я поглядела в глаза его.

Томилось сердце, не зная даже

Причины горя своего.


Безветрен вечер и грустью скован

Под сводом облачных небес,

И словно тушью нарисован

В альбоме старом Булонский Лес.


Бензина запах и сирени,

Насторожившийся покой...

Он снова тронул мои колени

Почти не дрогнувшей рукой.



Len Krisak

Christodorus of Thebes in Egypt: From The Greek Anthology, Book II--

From: Description of the Statues in the Public Gymnasium Called Zeuxippos


The first, Deiphobus, stood on a fine-carved base—

A fearless armored hero, daring in the face

Of everyone, the way he was when Menelaus

Attacked his house with all the Greeks. His fighting stance

Was as it should be, in a crouch that bent his back—

His strength coiled tightly in his shoulder-out advance.

His eyes flashed back-and-forth, on guard against attack.

His left hand thrust his shield out; wielded in his right,

His sword was raised against whatever came to chance.

Perhaps some enemy trying to test his might

Was just about to be run through.  But in this fight,

The bronze, by virtue of its nature, could not do

The one thing his ferocity most wished it to.




Greek text:


'Έ,κφραοΊ! των α-/α\μάτων των fls το δημόσιον •γυμνάσιον τον



Αηίφοβος μεν πρώτος εύηΧύπτω έττϊ βωμω                    

ΐστατο, τοΧμήεις, κεκορυθ "μένος, οβριμος ήρως,          

τοϊος εών, οϊός ττερ εττορνυμενω ΧίενεΧάω                               

ττερθομένων ηντησεν εών ττροττάροιθε μεΧάθρων.

Ϊστατο Βε ττροβιβώντι ττανείκεΧος• el• δ' επί κόσμω                    5

Βόχμιος ην, μανίη Βε κεκυφότα νώτα συνεΧκων

δριμύ μένυς ξυνά^κίρεν εΧισσε Be φε^/ος οπωπης,

old τε Βνσμενέων μερόπων πεφ υΧα^ μένος όρμήν.

Χα if) μεν σάκος ευρύ προΐσχετο, Βεξιτερτ) Βε

φάσηανον ύψόσ' άειρεν εμεΧΧε Βε μαινόμενη χειρ                       10

άνέρος άντιβίοιο κατά χροος αορ εΧάσσαι•

αλλ' ου χαΧκον εθηκε φύσις πειθήμονα Χύσστ).



Len Krisak

Hugo: Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne


  —September 3, 1847


Tomorrow, when the fields are light with dawn,

I'II go, knowing you wait for me; you’re stronger.

I’ll walk through woods because I can’t go on;

I’ll cross the peaks. Too long apart—no longer.


I’ll go with eyes fixed on a single thought;

I’ll hear no sound and see no other sight.

Hunched over folded hands; unknown; distraught;

Alone—for me, the day will be like night.


I will not see that golden night descend,

Nor far sails find Harfleur. Leopoldine,

I’ll give your grave, when I’m at journey's end,

New heather sprays, and holly, fresh and green.




French text:


Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je
sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.


Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,

Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.


Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.



Len Krisak

Sextus Propertius: I.19


My Cynthia, I’m not afraid to die—to pay

            The fate I owe the pyre that final day.

But that my destined rites might lack your love, my dear?

            Harder than any funeral, that fear.

Upon these eyes that boy has not so lightly set                                              5

            His seal; my loving dust will not forget.

(Protesilaus’ wife, where she might be forgot,

            Held fast that hero’s love, and she was not.

For when he yearned to touch his love with ghostly hands,

            That shade re-haunted his Thessalian lands.)                                    10

Whatever I may be in death, I’ll still be yours;

            Great love can cross even those fatal shores.

And if I met there each fair heroine with whom

            The Argive kings made sport at Ilium’s doom,

Not one, dear Cynthia, would please me more than you                                15

            In all your beauty. And—Earth make this true—

However long old age delay you by the will

            Of Fate, my tears will prove you precious still.

That you might feel this while alive is my one wish.

            No death would make me bitter when I’m ash.                                 20

O Cynthia, how I fear you’ll spurn my bones turned dust.

            He’ll tear you from me—Love, who’s so unjust—

And make you dry your tears when you would cry.

            With constant threats, the best girl would comply.

So while we may, come let us love, we two, as one.                                      25

            However long, love’s far too quickly done.




Latin text:


Non ego nunc tristis vereor, mea Cynthia, Manes,
    nec moror extremo debita fata rogo;
sed ne forte tuo careat mihi funus amore,
    hic timor est ipsis durior exsequiis.
non adeo leviter nostris puer haesit ocellis,                                        5
    ut meus oblito pulvis amore vacet.
illic Phylacides iucundae coniugis heros
    non potuit caecis immemor esse locis,
sed cupidus falsis attingere gaudia palmis
    Thessalis antiquam venerat umbra domum.                                   10
illic quidquid ero, semper tua dicar imago:
    traicit et fati litora magnus amor.
illic formosae veniant chorus heroinae,
    quas dedit Argivis Dardana praeda viris:
quarum nulla tua fuerit mihi, Cynthia, forma                                     15
    gratior et (Tellus hoc ita iusta sinat)
quamvis te longae remorentur fata senectae,
    cara tamen lacrimis ossa futura meis.
quae tu viva mea possis sentire favilla!
    tum mihi non ullo mors sit amara loco.                                         20
quam vereor, ne te contempto, Cynthia, busto
    abstrahat a nostro pulvere iniquus Amor,
cogat et invitam lacrimas siccare cadentis!
    flectitur assiduis certa puella minis.
quare, dum licet, inter nos laetemur amantes:                                     25
    non satis est ullo tempore longus amor.




LEN KRISAK's two most recent books are Afterimage (original poems) and a complete translation of Rilke's New Poems, 1907-1908. His new translation of Prudentius's Hymns of the Martyrs is due out from Routledge in 2018. With work in the Hudson, Sewanee, PN, ntioch, and Southwest Reviews, he is the recipient of the Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur, and Robert Frost Prizes . . . and a four-time champion on Jeopardy!



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