Joseph Brodsky

1 D L T

December 24, 1971

When it’ s Christmas we’ re all of us magi.
At the grocers’ all slipping and pushing.
Where a tin of halvah, coffee-flavored,
is the cause of a human assault-wave
by a crowd heavy-laden with parcels:
each one his own king, his own camel.

Nylon bags, carrier bags, paper cones,
caps and neckties all twisted up sideways.
Reek of vodka and resin and cod,
orange mandarins, cinnamon, apples.
Floods of faces, no sign of a pathway
toward Bethlehem, shut off by blizzard.

Lines on the Winter Campaign, 1980

A bullet’ s velocity in low temperatures
greatly depends on its target’ s virtues,
on its urge to warm up in the plaited muscles
of the torso, in the neck’ s webbed sinews.
Stones lie flat like a second army.
The shade hugs the loam to itself willy-nilly.
The sky resembles peeling stucco.
An aircraft dissolves in it like a clothes moth,
and like a spring from a ripped-up mattress
an explosion sprouts up. Outside the crater,
the blood, like boiled milk, powerless to seep into

The End of a Beautiful Era

Since the stern art of poetry calls for words, I, morose,
deaf, and balding ambassador of a more or less
insignificant nation that’ s stuck in this super
power, wishing to spare my old brain,
hand myself my own topcoat and head for the main
street: to purchase the evening paper.

The Hawk's Cry in Autumn

Wind from the northwestern quarter is lifting him high above
the dove-gray, crimson, umber, brown
Connecticut Valley. Far beneath,
chickens daintily pause and move
unseen in the yard of the tumbledown
farmstead, chipmunks blend with the heath.

Now adrift on the airflow, unfurled, alone,
all that he glimpses — the hills’ lofty, ragged
ridges, the silver stream that threads
quivering like a living bone
of steel, badly notched with rapids,
the townships like strings of beads