I am sad. Enlightenment has become so unreliable.
Early last century
after the Revolution, Soviet poets
decided to only say “We.”
Poets decided to refer to themselves as only
They were ecstatic.
couldn’t take to the streets
because of blizzards
but it remained valid, lingering indoors.
It swore oaths, saying “We … ”
“I” had disappeared somewhere
through the mirror.
One bright sunny day, Mayakovsky too dashed out
shouting and shouting “We.”
Here was a poet of the streets.
“I” was not allowed anywhere.
“I” was wicked.
“We … ” alone had magic power.
The sky’s low pressure slowly fell lower.
Summer flowers kept being trampled.
Revolution devoured revolution.
The wind went out of every child’s soccer ball.
Likewise the wind went out of the tense atmosphere
wrote “I am in love,” but
there remained the custom of reading “We are in love.”
Winter snows had not all melted.
Spring is always uncertain.
Late last century
the Soviet Union died.
One after another,
countries quit the Warsaw Pact.
poets have nothing at all but “I.”
Starting with “I”
every day ends with “I.”
There is nothing
Even God is only another name for “I.”
Today, poets all around the Pacific Rim
are endlessly burying the ghosts of “We” and “I”
in the waves. What new birth is coming? Who
will be born next? Neither “We”
Each wave is one wave’s tomb, another wave’s womb.
— from Late Songs (2002)
Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Gary Gach