Elena Shvarts

Remembrance of Strange Hospitality

Once I had a taste
Of a girlfriends' milk,
My sister's milk–
Not to quench my thirst
But satisfy my soul.
Into a cup she squeezed
Milk from her left breast
And in that simple vessel
It gently frothed, rejoiced.
There was something birdlike in its odour,
Whiffs of sheep and wolf, and something older
Than the Milky Way, it was
Somehow warm and dense.
A daughter in the wilderness,
Once let her aged father drink
From her breasts and thus became
His mother. By this act of grace
Her whiteness drove away the dark,
A cradle substituted for a tomb.
From the duct next to your heart
You offered me a drink–
I'm not a vampire, am I?–Horror.
It frothed and tinkled, warm
And sweet, soft, everlasting,
Crowding time back in a corner.

        Russian; trans. Michael Molnar

Elena Shvarts, Russian, trans. Michael Molnar,
Paradise: Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Books, 1993.