Alexander Blok: The Unknown Lady




The restaurants on hot spring evenings
Lie under a dense and savage air.
Foul drafts and hoots from drunken revelers
Contaminate the thoroughfare.

Above the dusty lanes of suburbia
Above the tedium of bungalows
A pretzel sign begilds a bakery
And children screech fortissimo.

And every evening beyond the barriers
Gentlemen of practiced wit and charm
Go strolling beside the drainage ditches-
Derby tilted, lady at the arm.

The squeak of oarlocks comes over the lake water
A woman’s shriek assaults the ear
While above, in the sky, inured to everything,
The moon looks on with a mindles leer.

And every evening my one companion
Sits here, reflected in my glass.
Like me, he has drunk of bitter mysteries.
Like me, he is broken, dulled, downcast.

The sleepy lackeys stand beside tables
Waiting for the night to pass
And tipplers with the eyes of rabbits
Cry out: “In vino veritas!”

And every evening (or am I imagining?)
Exactly at the appointed time
A girl’s slim figure, silk raimented,
Glides past the misted window grime.

And slowly, passing through the revelers,
Unaccompanied, always alone,
Exuding mists and secret fragrances,
She sits at the table that is her own.

Something ancient, something legendary
Surrounds her presence in the room,
Her narrow hand, her silk, her bracelets,
Her hat, the rings, the ostrich plume.

Entranced by her presence, near, enigmatic,
I gaze through the dark of her lowered veil
And I behold an enchanted shoreline
An enchanted hinterland, far and pale.

I am made a guardian of higher mysteries,
Someone’s sun is entrusted to my control.
Tart wine has pierced the last convolution
Of my bent, labyrinthine soul.

And now the drooping plumes of ostriches,
Asway in my brain, droop slowly lower
And two eyes, limpid, blue, and fathomless
Are blooming on a distant shore.

Inside my soul a treasure is buried,
The key is here, and it is mine.
How right you are, you drunken monster!
I know: the truth is in the wine.

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