ANDREW MAYNE POETRY
MANDELSTAM’S KREMLIN MOUNTAIN MAN
We live, not sensing our country’s earth – its traces;
Our words blot out entirely at ten paces.
Yet, at our tête-à-têtes – the briefest snatch –
The Kremlin mountain man is present and on watch:
His podgy fingers, greasy as worm-bait;
His measured words, dumb-bell weighted;
His giant cockroach moustache that laughs at us;
Those gleaming knee-length boot-tops.
Around him herd his lean-necked functionaries,
Cretinous spawn whose service he cat-and-mouses;
Some squeak, some whimper, some purr.
To him alone the prod and claw.
He forges dictats, quick-fire – a row of horseshoes:
There’s one for the crotch, the forehead, brow or eyes.
Those he executes – popped-in trifles but munched with zest –
He’d enfold, in his native land, against his barrel-chest.
Modern Poetry in Translation (3/15)