The Correct Approach

p
o
e
m
s

Eloquently they spoke, those ancients—

briefly, and with a shine.

Their thoughts had little wings attached to them,

like Hermes’.

(You remember Hermes?

You don’t remember Hermes.

So, see they have no wings, these your thoughts.)

As for ancients, they could care less

if someone likes you misunderstood them.

Everyone understood them.

If there was such a brain-damaged individual—

he then quietly got intimate with a muse,

one of the nine.

And the muse, leaning her graceful little head,

taught him.

What did she teach him?

She taught him to shut up. And to stay shut up. And to keep staying

shut up.

And if he opened his big mouth,

he had her permission—

as long as he spoke in hexameters.

 

Translated from Russian by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky.

Regina Derieva (February 7, 1949–December 11, 2013) was a Russian poet and writer who published around thirty books of poetry, essays, and prose.

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