The day was hot. The woods were burning. Time
Dragged by tediously. At a neighboring dacha
A cock was crowing. I went out the gate.
There, leaning on the fence, on a bench
Dozed a wandering Serb, gaunt and dark.
A heavy silver cross hung
On his half-naked chest. Drops of sweat
Rolled down. Above him, on the fence
Sat a monkey in a red skirt
Greedily chewing the dusty
Lilac leaves. A leather collar,
Dragged back by a heavy chain,
Cut into her throat. The Serb, hearing me,
Came to, wiped away his sweat and asked me
To give him water. But having taken a little sip,-
To see if it wasn't too cold,-he put the saucer
On the bench, and just then the monkey,
Dipping her fingers into the water, grabbed
The saucer with both hands.
She drank, standing on all fours,
Her elbows resting on the bench.
Her chin almost touched the boards,
Her backbone curved high above
her balding crown. In this same way
Darius must have once posed, bent
To a puddle in the road, on the day he retreated
Before Alexander's mighty phalanx.
Having drunk all the water, the monkey
Knocked the saucer off the bench, straightened up
And-will I ever forget this moment?-
Offered me a callused, black hand,
Still cool with moisture...
I've shaken hands with beauties, with poets,
With heads of state-not one hand
Possessed such nobility
Of contour! Not one hand
Touched my hands in such a brotherly fashion!
And God knows, no one ever looked
Into my eyes with such wisdom and depth,
Indeed-to the bottom of my soul.
The sweetest legends of deep antiquity
This lowly beast awakened in my heart,
And at that instant life appeared full to me,
And it seemed-a chorus of heavenly bodies and ocean waves,
Winds and spheres like organ music
Burst into my ears, thundered, as before,
In other, unremembered days.
And the Serb left, beating a tambourine.
Seated on his left shoulder,
The monkey swayed in time,
Like an Indian maharaja on an elephant.
A huge crimson sun,
Bereft of rays,
Hung in opalescent smoke. A stormless
Heat poured over the drooping wheat.
That day war was declared.