"An autumn evening in the modest square"

"An autumn evening in the modest square"

Original Text

Brodsky, Joseph. Collected Poems in English. Edited by Ann Kjellberg. New York, N.Y.: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000: 65-66.

2of a small town proud to have made the atlas
3(some frenzy drove that poor mapmaker witless,
4or else he had the daughter of the mayor).
5Here Space appears unnerved by its own feats
6and glad to drop the burden of its greatness--
7to shrink to the dimensions of Main Street;
8and Time, chilled to its bone, stares at the clockface
9above the general store, whose crowded shelves
10hold every item that this world produces,
11from fancy amateur stargazers' tel-
12escopes to common pins for common uses.
13A movie theater, a few saloons,
14around the bend a café with drawn shutters,
15a red-brick bank topped with spread-eagle plumes,
17unfilled, and which would be paid little heed,
18except that it stands next to the post office.
19And if parishioners should cease to breed,
20the pastor would start christening their autos.
21Grasshoppers, in silence, run amok.
22By 6 p.m. the city streets are empty,
23unpeopled as if by a nuclear strike.
24Just surfacing, the moon swims to the center
26iastes, glowering; while on the lonely
27highway, from time to time, a Buick beams
28its blinding headlights at the Unknown Soldier.
29The dreams you dream are not of girls half nude
30but of your name on an arriving letter.
31A morning milkman, seeing milk that's soured,
32will be the first to guess that you have died here.
33Here you can live, ignoring calendars,
34gulp Bromo, never leave the house; just settle
35and stare at your reflection in the glass,
36as streetlamps stare at theirs in shrinking puddles.


1] In Peresechennaia mestnost' the author identified the setting of this poem as Ann Arbor, Michigan (Ann Kjellberg from Collected Poems in English) Back to Line
16] "to fish for men": See Matthew 4:19, et al.: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Ann Kjellberg from Collected Poems in English) Back to Line
25] "like some Eccles/iastes": See Ecclesiastes 12:3: "those that look out of the windows be darkened" (Lev Loseff from the Biblioteka poeta edition of Joseph Brodsky's work in Russian) Back to Line
Publication Start Year
Publication Notes

This translation, by George L. Kline, first appeared in Confrontation 8, Spring, 1974.

RPO poem Editors
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh
RPO Edition
Special Copyright

"An autumn evening in the modest square" © Joseph Brodsky 2000. Printed with permission of the publishers, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Any other use, including reproduction for any purposes, educational or otherwise, will require explicit written permission from the publishers.