There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. - Red Smith
* * *
Once having left my homeland's sacred groves
And too the house where pined the Muse of Tears,
I found a low-set isle that looked a raft
Stuck in the middle of the Neva delta
And settled to a life of cheerful quiet.
Those wintry days so full of mystery,
Work, treasured work, delicious tiredness,
And, in a china washbowl, early roses!
The snowy sidestreet was not long, but boasted
A lofty church, St. Catherine's Cathedral,
Whose altar wall rose opposite my door.
I was an early riser and would leave
The sleeping house and vainly try to find
The footprints left by me the day before
Upon the street's white shroud. Along the river
I then would slowly go, where schooners dove-like
Rubbed noses tenderly and waited for
Spring and the sea, its greyness specked with foam.
Then I would reach the ancient bridge and climb
The staircase of a dirty, crowded house
And reach a room no better than a cage
That perched beneath the roof. There, like a finch,
He whistled happily before his easel,
Aired grievances in merry tones, and spoke
With rueful mien of joys that never were.
The canvas was a mirror; anxious-eyed
I stared: with every passing week the portrait
Was more like me in some uncanny way
And made me sad... Where is the artist now,
Dear fellow that he was? I do not know.
His garret room was blue-walled, with a window
That led onto the roof. Above a deadly
Abyss we crept, oblivious of all
Except the snow, the Neva, and the clouds...
Bound are our Muses by a touching friendship,
Like two warmhearted girls passed by by love.