The Age

My age, my beast, who will ever
Look into your eyes
And with his own blood glue together
The backbones of two centuries?
Blood the builder gushes
From the throat of earthly things,
Only the parasite trembles
On the threshold of new days.

As long as it holds life, a creature
Must carry to the end a spine,
And a wave plays
With the unseen backbone.
Like a child’s tender cartilage
Is the age of earth’s infancy—
Once more, like a sacrificial lamb,
The crown of life’s skull is offered up.

To wrest the age from captivity,
To begin a new world,
The knees of gnarled and knotted days
Must fit together like a flute.
It is the age that rocks the wave
With human yearning,
And in the grass an adder breathes
The golden measure of the age.

And again the buds will swell,
Shoots of greenery will spring up,
But your backbone is broken,
My beautiful, pathetic age.
And with a senseless smile
You look back, both cruel and weak,
Like a beast that once was lithe,
Upon the prints of your own paws.

Blood the builder gushes
From the throat of earthly things,
And the seas’ warm cartilage
splashes ashore like a burning fish.
And from the high bird netting,
From humid billows of azure
Cool indifference pours, pours down
On your mortal injury.

(Osip Mandelstam)