Translated from russian by Peter Daniels
The original text of the poem «The Dactyls»

The Dactyls


He had six fingers, my father.Across the stretch ofcanvas,
    Bruni tutored the soft trail ofhis brush.
Where the Academy sphinxes have stared each other out, he would
    dash in a summer jacket across the frozen Neva.
He returned to Lithuania, the cheerfully penniless painter
    ofmurals in many churches, Polish and Russian.


He had six fingers,my father. That kind ofbirth is lucky.
    Where the pear trees are standing on the green boundary,
the Viliya bringing its azure waters into the Neman,
    he met his joy in the poorest ofpoor families.
As a child I found in a drawer Mama's veil and bridal slippers.
    Mama! To me you are prayers; love; faithfulness; death.


He had six fingers, my father. We would play at «Mister Magpie»
    ofan evening on the divan that we loved. That's when
I would painstakingly fold his fatherly fingers over,
    one by one – that's five. And the sixth one is me.
Halfa dozen children. And truly, by hard work he brought
    five up to adulthood, but he didn't last into mine.


He had six fingers, my father. That tiny superfluous pinky
    he could hide neatly inside the fist ofhis left,
and so inside his soul for ever, unmentioned under a bushel,
    he would hide his past, his grieffor his sacred craft.
He went into business out ofneed, not a hint or a word
    ofa memory, a murmur. He liked just to say nothing.