Curious, considering the round robin involved when Brodsky, in his elegy for TS Eliot, closely echoed Auden's elegy for Yeats, both of them emphasizing the cold January weather. (I tried to do the same thing for Brodsky a few years ago.)
JOSEPH BRODSKY But each grave is the limit of the earth. 1 You died on a cold night in January. It was Superbowl Sunday. A supine empire, Preoccupied with bread and circuses, Land Rovers, stratagems of muscle- Bound heroes. Next day, fire Swallows the famous opera house in Venice. Not with a bang – with a light rustle Of red silk, your heart passed the final Exam, black-sailed, in the science of farewells. Snow falls on the fleeting moiré of the sea; It falls on horsemen passing by, on the halfbacks Of the dolphins' curved smiles (in a mirror Of alien tribes). Snow falls on night grass In the trackless pine forest; it falls with the stars Drifting down from unnumbered, shiftless heaven; So it fell, and will fall, on those bronze eyelids. A guarded glance, coiled in frozen hexagons; Shy cedar voice, immured in pyramids. Snow mixed with tears signals a hearth somewhere. Not in the street, not in this Byzantine air Of columns and cenotaphs – no. Just a home By a river of marrying streams; a certain Rome Where tongues descend – ascending voices mingle In companionable flame. This friendly fire Eats brotherly dusk, shakes fearful ether Into evening wine... one hawk's cry Screams – and melds into the Muse's profile. 2 Life's flimsy laundry, easily Unraveled. Transparent butterfly net, Wing of a moth, how slyly they Trap the hunter, iced on an alpine sheet. You fight the droning in your head With all the cunning you can muster; Turning its power against itself, you lead A life Laertes would approve (bluster, Business laboring for acclaim) Only to drown the voice above the trees. Relentless, impervious to shame, It finds you out, brings you to your knees. And like the heavy signet ring, A chieftain's ring, that hidden in hand Sealed Hamlet's heart (O molten, circling sting) – The droning issues forth its stark command. You listened, followed. A shuttling pencil In a nighthawk's beak – a spear in your side; And a huge sea-moth with crossbone stencil Shattered your lamp. Died. Summer ends, the droning subsides. The ruthless tango of prose and poetry Is dead. Cicada shells, butterfly hides... Some leftover spider's ecstasy. 3 In the depths of the Soviet winter, in the ponderous cold Of Siberia, a boy cups an abandoned moth in his hands, Born – to die a few hours old – Into a false firewood springtime. Its delicate wings Are only an affront to the divine benevolence; he understands Nothing; his hands, like an insect coffin, bear the stings Of the nails themselves; like a dry cocoon, absently, They drift to the shack wall, and the fingers fan, In unison, a camouflaged figure in the pinewood pantry. This tender sign... a tenderness snuffed out. This heavy icon, then... true mimic of an action? Or only the swollen, distorted wings of a parasite?
Or only the screech of broken chalk on slate? Droning brittle wings, poets take their stations At the edge of the cliff – their noise intuitive, innate... The butterfly is gone. Its form was here, immaculate; The hands tracing its flight, aimless, serpentine, Mimic its undetermined motion – late, late – Since that double-woven fountain, afloat with indirection, Surging, sparkling, translucent, seeks its mate In a signal heaven – a camouflage beyond dissection. 2.2.96