Pavel Tayber made these illustrations while reading my poems.
Sasha Nemirovsky. Mama Mother

I'm still at a loss — is time frozen or spinning?
Does my memory keep you alive, or yours me?
Or is there no time?
No end, no beginning.
Just sunlight alone
Flickering on your cheek.

What’s ahead In the future
Is visible plainly.
What once burned sears a permanent sign in the chest.
If there’s truly no time,
Prayer here is needless.
In the Temple
You simply can love,
Have love's joy expressed.

Not to stray
From choice after choice,
And then end up mistaken.
There are no mistakes when spirits coalesce.
I'm still at a loss — do I pray for forgiveness?
Or did I have everything pardoned,
But I, in remaining, am deaf?

My kin, my own blood, our gold glistens
Our eyes flash with mischief,
In our ears, words echoing.
They ripple
In me. Rushing up roly-poly and shaking.
For all times to come,
You call me yours rightfully.

(translated by James Manteith and Andrey Kneller)

Sasha Nemirovsky Kronos


And my life will be shorter by one year's span.
And my beard will become more graying than russet.
And I'll grow still more clueless about my daughter’s generation.
And forget even more about the one I was from.

But as ever, unknown, my verses fester.
But as ever, the sun centers flight for a small, spun sphere.
And causing no pain, none at all, night takes day over.
And making no sound, time's hand burrows in the remembered.

God is leasing me room for a life in space-time,
For a ripeness of soul to pay back once in full.
So that someone's lips one day might sift bones I songwrite,
And find vibrating sound to swell memory's sail,

For its pull, sending alien vessels to sea,
Parting silence of salt-bearing waves with hulls' pressure.
It's beside the point when I was born, then wearied.
I'm keeping this course. No less straight than ever.

(translated by James Manteith and Andrey Kneller)

Sasha Nemirovsky Mebius


It's done: a page. So now back off
A step to judge
another strophe.
Don't lose the way
When paper dross
Clogs eyes closed.
Lead the line,
The end's not real,
Curve verse whole on the canvas field.
Then take delight —
Among the whorls
The wind's mucked up its jockey skills.

The saddle's thrown,
Misfortune sings,
The snake is swallowing its tail.
The road bounds on
Nowhere from nothing,
Timelessly simple.

Here commas can be put aside,
No signatures or bars set rhythm.
Yet each line's alert to ride
At no more than your respiration.
There's just a whistle of surprise
At your own imprints in your path —

Who left them here?
What poet passed?
Don't muck it up!
It's done: a page.
So now back off
A step to judge
another strophe..
Don't lose the way....

(translated by James Manteith and Andrey Kneller)

Sasha Nemirovsky Poetry

* * *

And when later my time comes around
For my children to judge me guilty
Of the sin of self-conceit...
Will the book once written count,
Or the openly planted tree?
Will it matter when people deem
Me suddenly forgiven?

I won't be condoned up there,
Where my sum's in a secret ledger,
Where the temple would have me appear,
Where my soul will burn down like a taper.
Whatever I stole, I'll return.
Whatever's my voice, scrape it raw
With repentence and shame.
I'll retain the extent of our days.
I'll retain the expanse of my dreams.

Let the bodiless memory be
Suffused in the light of the cosmos.
After that, you and I will repeat
In a thousand years, maybe, or so.
And again on the face of the earth
One soul will arrive for rebirth
In two bodies for part of its term,
Lives crushed so its whole can emerge.

(translated by James Manteith and Andrey Kneller)

Sasha Nemirovsky Time-Bear * * *

Good day to you, Time — Sir Bear.
We're squaring off, one versus one:
Yes, I know you'll maul me flat.
I won't stay on my feet the whole fight,
But the edge in this round here's mine.
And maybe I'll scrape by
Enough in the next to hang on...
After all, I have reasons.
Behind me,
These hands of children,
These dumb
And not-dumb endless questions.
This mouth smeared with oatmeal.
These tears,
Pouting and other symptoms,
Which lead me to feel
Even hopeful
Your paw will swipe by with no violence
But clothing torn.
Another round you haven't won.

(translated by James Manteith and Andrey Kneller)

Sasha Nemirovksy South of France South of France

How about oysters, maybe some white wine?
Like late that lazy morning
In Collioure?
Our window
With the apple trees outside.
A frock as punctuation for your figure.
The way we stood together, hands entwined.
No worries came to mind then, not a twinge.
With sand beneath our feet. Not stubborn grime
Or slush tracked in from Moscow's boggy fringe.
Our octaves
When we met swam with expanse.
The sun defied all settings for exposure,
Reduced each camera click to impotence.
Our vision trembled like a web with laughter.

Collioure — Matissian in a frame of Pablo.
Where Roman towers
Guard whatever times.
Both you and they
Have held me mesmerized.
Redeem me, Lord, so that the memory won't wobble.

(translated by James Manteith and Andrey Kneller)

Sasha Nemirovsky Russian poetry

Morning Etude

Then morning — the gulls will wake us.
And scents will rise like the sea.
But you'll burrow, blanket drawn
And you'll leave nothing bare, save
Your nose's crux.

A day ought to start off with starting —
With asking and answering questions
Whose surf surges past your terrain's
Trailing selvage. Ceaselessly.
Birds squawk still more gamely.

And sun-struck dust whisks light bigger.
A sigh. Wide eyes.
Turn off the cell ringer.
No longer in a dream.

(translated by James Manteith and Andrey Kneller)

Sasha Nemirovsky. Lyrics

* * *

God gave you to me freely by dictation.
As my completion. I can no longer leave you behind.
No ring and no altar, syllables conjugate us.
You consider a word — and the word wings into my mind.
Who'll forgive?
Who'll condemn? We're bound, broken, battered.
Like sniped birds.
What's left is our fall
And banal shatter.
And that, of course, pays the piper
For all you and I once stole.

Sleepless again, I meet the dawn, moping.
Won't hope
Pay a visit, calm my brow with its touch?
So many years on!
I'm surely forgiving.
But first, though,
I'll ask you: for what?

Your gaze distant. And words bear the blame.
I see. Simply words fail here.
We decided ourselves. Are trapped by our own decision.
We can't breathe, can't get up.
We are riddled with grass.
Winds lash.
Memory smolders, coated with ash.
Photographs fade, no way to shield them.
So many years gone that no one kept track.
Daybreak deceptive.
Poetry speaks for no reason.

Please pardon me, God, for our twosome, disgraceful.
Whom happiness frightened,
Who chose the dark to survive.
We're frozen in writing.
Spread in line spacings.
Parts belonging
To one mechanism. The greater guilt mine.

(translated by James Manteith and Andrey Kneller)

Sasha Nemirovsky. Lyrics * * *

Whatever of me might be left
Is almost gone. And won't last long.
Just two more days.
At most, a week.
Misfortune has an old dress on.
You wore that, pregnant with our kids.
After the banquet
Life doesn't change outfits
For hangover.
Dawn approaches
Eyes that despair.
And I, nobody,
Quickly burn straight through, stared down.

Some flickers,
Four or five, left in
An injured body.
Unbeing follows so effectively.
Nothing, maybe —
But no more of us fits
Your diary.

I'm pushed up to a precipice.
Left an hour to be.
Then you'll go, and my flame will cease.

(translated by James Manteith and Andrey Kneller)