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‘Presepio’, by Joseph Brodsky (translated by Richard Wilbur)

The wise men; Joseph; the tiny infant; Mary;
The cows; the drovers, each with his dromedary;
The hulking shepherds in their sheepskins — they
Have all become toy figures made of clay.

In the cotton-batting snow that’s strewn with glints,
A fire is blazing. You’d like to touch that tinsel
Star with a finger — or all five of them,
As the infant wished to do in Bethlehem.

All this, in Bethlehem, was of greater size.
Yet the clay, round which the drifted cotton lies,
With tinsel overhead, feels good to be
Enacting what we can no longer see.

Now you are huge compared to them, and high
Beyond their ken. Like a midnight passerby
Who finds the pane of some small hut aglow,
You peer from the cosmos at this little show.

There life goes on, although the centuries
Require that some diminish by degrees,
While others grow, like you. The small folk there
Contend with granular snow and icy air,

And the smallest reaches for the breast, and you
Half-wish to clench your eyes, or step into
A different galaxy, in whose wastes there shine
More lights than there are sands in Palestine.

Wilbur, Richard. Anterooms: New Poems and Translations: 35-36. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.

Comments

  1. Splendid, thanks Angelico.

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