“Night Sewing”

A Poem by Olga Sedakova, Translated by Martha Kelly

March 11, 2022  By Olga Sedakova

To Tiapa

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The stars in the sky move away to the west,
the eagle of Cassiopeia pales—
nearly gone, but like rapport needlework,
it wants to repeat itself over and over.
And you, soul? you’re curled up asleep like a marmot?
It’s time for the work inspiration has taught.

Take up your needles and take up your flax,
stretch your passions on an antique loom—
watch Ariadne’s shuttle fly
through your labyrinth, the frightful fiend chasing behind.
What we need is a handwoven linen, you know—
a creaking, a splendid, a glistening bridge.

No matter what’s there and no matter what happens,
I love the chariots of stars in the sky,
charioteers and dragons who bear on their spokes
all hairs of the light, apples of the eye,
the gleam of the thread flying into the needle,
and the whistle of mice tucked away by the stove,

Like a hero of old fulfilling his quest
we’ll bring back the apples of night from the garden,
we’ll sew and we’ll weave our own creation—
the pantry, the labyrinth, the mouse trap: that is—
its hallway that frightens and stifles us, too,
the well that will lead to the mountain’s vast treasure.

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So what shall I do with the dust of the earth
as we wait for a much better sun to come out?
We’ll weave the sky that follows behind me,
from where souls we love look out and see us.
And just as though it were a fire in the stove,
they’ll take up their poker and rake at my heart.


Excerpted from This Is Us Losing Count, by Olga Sedakova, translated by Martha Kelly, published by Two Lines Press, 2022, as part of the Calico series.. Reprinted with permission. 

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Olga Sedakova
Olga Sedakova is one of Russia’s most revered poets today. Born in 1949, she emerged as a writer in the late Soviet Underground. In recent decades she has primarily published translations, essays, and cultural criticism, reflecting her growing importance as a voice of conscience. Sedakova’s poetry reflects a “longing for world culture” (Mandelstam) as well as an ongoing attempt to articulate an ethic and aesthetic grounded in Russian cultural traditions.

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