Translated by Leo Yankevich
High noon in Dagestan, I lay marooned
In blistering heat, a bullet in my breast.
Smoke still rose in the valley from my wound
As drop-by-drop I watched blood flowing west.
I lay upon the loam of that strange land,
Cliffs closing in, the sun soon touching peaks,
Reaching past the mountain with its hand
To burn my dreaming brow and death-pale cheeks.
I dreamt I saw the flaming orb’s bright glare
Feasting on poppies in my native parts,
And braided girls with flowers in their hair,
Recalling me with soft hands on their hearts.
But in the oaken table’s hazy gleam
I saw another girl with half-crazed eyes.
She sat as if a captive in a dream,
Her stare the shade or shroud of starless skies.
She dreamt of that strange place in Dagestan,
Of smoke ascending over the black breast
Of a strange but somehow familiar man
As drop-by-drop he watched blood flowing west.
After the Russian of Mikhail Lermontov (1814–1841), from Leo Yankevich’s Journey Late at Night: Poems and Translations, forthcoming from Counter-Currents