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Best Famous Joseph Brodsky Poems

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by Joseph Brodsky |

Belfast Tune

Here's a girl from a dangerous town
She crops her dark hair short
so that less of her has to frown
when someine gets hurt.

She folds her memories like a parachute.
Dropped she collects the peat
and cooks her veggies at home: they shoot
here where they eat.

Ah there's more sky in these parts than say 
ground. Hence her voice's pitch 
and her stare stains your retina like a gray
bulb when you switch

hemispheres and her knee-length quilt
skirt's cut to catch the squal 
I dream of her either loved or killed
because the town's too small.

by Joseph Brodsky |

Seven Strophes

I was but what you'd brush
with your palm what your leaning
brow would hunch to in evening's
raven-black hush.

I was but what your gaze
in that dark could distinguish:
a dim shape to begin with 
later - features a face.

It was you on my right 
on my left with your heated
sighs who molded my helix
whispering at my side.

It was you by that black
window's trembling tulle pattern
who laid in my raw cavern
a voice calling you back.

I was practically blind.
You appearing then hiding 
gave me my sight and heightened
it. Thus some leave behind

a trace. Thus they make worlds.
Thus having done so at random
wastefully they abandon
their work to its whirls.

Thus prey to speeds
of light heat cold or darkness 
a sphere in space without markers
spins and spins.

by Joseph Brodsky |


Darling you think it's love it's just a midnightjourney.
Best are the dales and rivers removed by force 
as from the next compartment throttles "Oh stopit Bernie "
yet the rhythm of those paroxysms is exactly yours.
Hook to the meat! Brush to the red-brick dentures 
alias cigars smokeless like a driven nail!
Here the works are fewer than monkey wrenches 
and the phones are whining dwarfed by to-no-avail.
Bark then with joy at Clancy Fitzgibbon Miller.
Dogs and block letters care how misfortune spells.
Still you can tell yourself in the john by the spat-at mirror 
slamming the flush and emerging with clean lapels.
Only the liquid furniture cradles the dwindling figure.
Man shouldn't grow in size once he's been portrayed.
Look: what's been left behind is about as meager
as what remains ahead. Hence the horizon's blade.

by Joseph Brodsky |

Stone Villages

The stone-built villages of England.
A cathedral bottled in a pub window.
Cows dispersed across fields.
Monuments to kings.

A man in a moth-eaten suit
sees a train off heading like everything here 
for the sea 
smiles at his daughter leaving for the East.
A whistle blows.

And the endless sky over the tiles
grows bluer as swelling birdsong fills.
And the clearer the song is heard 
the smaller the bird.

by Joseph Brodsky |

Letter to an Archaeologist

Citizen enemy mama's boy sucker utter
garbage panhandler swine refujew verrucht;
a scalp so often scalded with boiling water
that the puny brain feels completely cooked.
Yes we have dwelt here: in this concrete brick wooden
rubble which you now arrive to sift.
All our wires were crossed barbed tangled or interwoven.
Also: we didn't love our women but they conceived.
Sharp is the sound of pickax that hurts dead iron

still it's gentler that what we've been told or
have said ourselves.
Stranger! move carefully through our carrion:
what seems carrion to you is freedom to our cells
Leave our names alone. Don't reconstruct those vowels 
consonants and so forth: they won't resemble larks
but a demented bloodhound whose maw devours
its own traces feces and barks and barks.

by Joseph Brodsky |

Tsushima Screen

The perilous blue sun follows with its slant eyes
masts of the shuddered grove steaming up to capsize
in the frozen straits of Epiphany. February has fewer
days than the other months; therefore it's morecruel
than the rest. Dearest it's more sound
to wrap up our sailing round
the globe with habitual naval grace 
moving your cot to the fireplace
where our dreadnought is going under
in great smoke. Only fire can grasp a winter!
Golder unharnessed stallions in the chimney
dye their manes to more corvine shades as they near the finish 
and the dark room fills with the plaintive incessant chirring
of a naked lounging grasshopper one cannot cup in fingers.

by Joseph Brodsky |

Dutch Mistress

A hotel in whose ledgers departures are more prominent than arrivals.
With wet Koh-i-noors the October rain
strokes what's left of the naked brain.
In this country laid flat for the sake of rivers,
beer smells of Germany and the seaguls are
in the air like a page's soiled corners.
Morning enters the premises with a coroner's
punctuality, puts its ear 
to the ribs of a cold radiator, detects sub-zero:
the afterlife has to start somewhere.
Correspondingly, the angelic curls
grow more blond, the skin gains its distant, lordly
white, while the bedding already coils
desperately in the basement laundry.

by Joseph Brodsky |

A Polar Explorer

All the huskies are eaten. There is no space
left in the diary And the beads of quick
words scatter over his spouse's sepia-shaded face
adding the date in question like a mole to her lovely cheek.
Next the snapshot of his sister. He doesn't spare his kin:
what's been reached is the highest possible latitude!
And like the silk stocking of a burlesque half-nude
queen it climbs up his thigh: gangrene.

by Joseph Brodsky |

May 24 1980

I have braved for want of wild beasts steel cages 
carved my term and nickname on bunks and rafters 
lived by the sea flashed aces in an oasis 
dined with the-devil-knows-whom in tails on truffles.
From the height of a glacier I beheld half a world the earthly
width. Twice have drowned thrice let knives rake my nitty-gritty.
Quit the country the bore and nursed me.
Those who forgot me would make a city.
I have waded the steppes that saw yelling Huns in saddles 
worn the clothes nowadays back in fashion in every quarter 
planted rye tarred the roofs of pigsties and stables 
guzzled everything save dry water.
I've admitted the sentries' third eye into my wetand foul
dreams. Munched the bread of exile; it's stale and warty.
Granted my lungs all sounds except the howl;
switched to a whisper. Now I am forty.
What should I say about my life? That it's long and abhors transparence.
Broken eggs make me grieve; the omelette though makes me vomit.
Yet until brown clay has been rammed down my larynx 
only gratitude will be gushing from it.

by Joseph Brodsky |

Folk Tune

It's not that the Muse feels like clamming up 
it's more like high time for the lad's last nap.
And the scarf-waving lass who wished him the best
drives a steamroller across his chest.

And the words won't rise either like that rod
or like logs to rejoin their old grove's sweet rot
and like eggs in the frying pan the face
spills its eyes all over the pillowcase.

Are you warm tonight under those six veils
in that basin of yours whose strung bottom wails;
where like fish that gasp at the foreign blue
my raw lip was catching what then was you?

I would have hare's ears sewn to my bald head 
in thick woods for your sake I'd gulp drops of lead 
and from black gnarled snags in the oil-smooth poad
I'd bob up to your face as some Tirpitz won't.

But it's not on the cards or the waiter's tray 
and it pains to say where one's hair turns gray.
There are more blue veins than the blood to swell
their dried web let alone some remote brain cell 

We are parting for good my friend that's that.
Draw an empty circle on your blue pad.
This will be me: no insides in thrall.
Stare at it a while then erase the scrawl.