Let’s Not…


Let’s not…
Everything’s ghostly-
the blank windows watching,
the snow reddening behind the stoplights of the cars.
Let’s not…
Everything’s ghostly, lost in mist,
like a garden in March emptied of men and women,
paraded by shadows.
Let’s not…
I stand by a tree,
not speaking, undeceiving, facing
the double glare of the headlights,
and with a quiet hand touch
but do not break
the tender icicle imprisoning a twig.
Let’s not…
I see you in the sleepy, reeling trolley
with spectral Moscow rocking in the window,
your cheek propped on a child’s wool mitten,
thinking of me with a woman’s rancor.
Let’s not…
You’ll be a woman soon enough, subtle and worn,
hungry for praise, for the balm of a caress;
it will be March again,
a callow boy will whisper in your ear,
your head will whirl inconsolably.
Let’s not…
for both your sakes,
don’t stroll with him down the slippery path,
don’t place
your insubordinate hands
upon his shoulders,
even as I do not place them today.
Let’s not…
Oh, disbelieve, like me, in the ghostly city.
Be spared
from waking in the wasteland, terrified.
Say: ‘Let’s not…’
bending your head,
as I this moment
say ‘Let’s not…’ to you…

Translated by Stanley Kunitz with Anthony Kahn

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