POETRY: Christmas Ballad by Joseph Brodsky

Christmas Ballad by Joseph Brodsky
For Evgeny Rein, With Love

There floats in an abiding gloom,
among immensities of brick,
a little boat of night: it seems
to sail through Alexander Park.
It’s just a lonely streetlamp, though,
a yellow rose against the night,
for lovers strolling down below
the busy street.

There floats in an abiding gloom
a drone of bees: men drunk, asleep.
In the dark capital a lone
tourist takes another snap.
Now out onto Ordynka turns
a taxicab, with sickly faces;
dead men lean into the arms
of the low houses.

There floats in an abiding gloom
a poet in sorrow; over here
a round-faced man sells kerosene,
the sad custodian of his store.
Along a dull deserted street
an old Lothario hurries. Soon
the midnight-riding newlyweds
sail through the gloom.

There floats in outer Moscow one
who swims at random to his loss,
and Jewish accents wander down
a dismal yellow flight of stairs.
From love toward unhappiness,
to New Year’s Eve, to Sunday, floats
a good-time girl: she can’t express
what’s lost inside.

Cold evening floats within your eyes
and snow is fluttering on the panes
of carriages; the wind is ice
and pale, it seals your reddened palms.
Evening lights like honey seep;
the scent of halvah’s everywhere,
as Christmas Eve lifts up its sweet-
meats in the air.

Now drifting on a dark-blue wave
across the city’s gloomy sea,
there floating by, your New Year’s Eve—
as if life could restart, could be
a thing of light with each day lived
successfully, and food to eat,
—as if, life having rolled to left,
it could roll right.

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