to Valentina Serova
If God in his almighty power
Called me to heaven when I died
And I was asked, at heaven's gate,
What I should choose to take inside,
I should not want, in paradise,
A tedious girl of honest worth.
I'd take with me the very same
With whom I'd shared this sinful earth:
The wild and wilful one, the one
Who gives me (for a time) her love,
She who tormented me below
Would keep me from ennui above.
There must be very few who'd take
Such desperate souls to share their bliss.
The blessed ones would peep at you
And say "Has Heaven come to this?"
I'd take with me the distances -
The agony of separation,
To call to mind when we're apart
The way you kissed me at the station.
I'd have to take the dangers too,
To keep you anxious, true and wise,
So that no coward should enjoy
The azure brilliance of your eyes.
I'd take to heaven a faithful friend
To drink a toast when all is well.
And I should take the enemy
To fight with - as we did in hell.
Love and ennui and pity I'd take,
Even the nightingale in the wood -
Every tiniest detail of life
That we live on earth, I'd take - if I could.
Even death- if that could be -
I should not leave behind below.
All that is here our lot on earth
I'd choose to take with me - and so
God, in astonishment, would curse
The worldly loyalties of men,
And pretty soon, without a doubt,
Would pop me back on earth again!
1941 (written in Odessa under siege)
© 2019-20 Mike Munford