Infidelity


Not waking, in my dreams, my dreams,
I saw you–you were alive.
You had endured all and come to me,
crossing the last frontier.

You were earth already, ashes, you
were my glory, my punishment.
But, in spite of life,
                             of death,
you rose from your thousand
                                            graves.

You passed through war hell, concentration camp,
through furnace, drunk with the flames,
through your own death you entered Leningrad,
came out of love for me.

You found my house, but I live now
not in our house, in another;
and a new husband shares my waking hours . . .
O how could you not have known?!

Like the master of the house, proudly you crossed
the threshold, stood there lovingly.
And I murmured: "God will rise again,"
and made the sign of the cross
over you–the unbeliever's cross, the cross
of despair, as black as pitch,
the cross that was made over each house
that winter, that winter in which

you died.
               O my friend, forgive me
as I sigh. How long have I not known
where waking ends and the dream begins . . .


                  Russian, trans. Daniel Weissbort


Olga Berggolts, Russian, trans. Daniel Weissbort, Post-War Russian Poetry, Penguin Books Ltd., 1974.