Leningrad (1931)

I spoke with a child’s gibberish to authority,
I was afraid to eat oysters,
I looked at the guardsmen out of the corner of my eye.
Everyone tortured me about this,
but how could I sulk in the foolish beaver miter of a bishop
by the Egyptian porticoes of the banks?
No gypsy girl ever danced for me
under the crackle of hundred-ruble bills
in a café high over the lemon-yellow Neva.
Far from the sirens and the ominous crush of events,
I shivered at the oncoming wave of murders,
and fled to the nymphs of the Black Sea.
I had to put up with much pain and anguish
from the famous beauties of the day,
those delicate, continental ladies.
Why then does this city move me like an old Mass,
when its fires and ice storms only make it
more arrogant, self-loving, empty and youthful?
Is it because I saw the naked, red-haired
Lady Godiva in some old picture book?
Lady Godiva, I do not remember. Lady Godiva.