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THE STRANGER

On evenings above the restaurants
Densely lies the troubled air;
It holds the rancid breath of spring,
Conveying drunken calls--

Over the dust of by-lanes, falls,
Toward the bored suburban flats,
The baker's golden crest
And the shrill cries of children.

At night, beyond the city pikes
The dandies by the ditches stroll
With their ladies, tipping their derbies,
And exercise their wits.

Out on the lake the oarlocks creak,
A woman screams,
While in the sky, bored with it all,
Indifferent, curls the moon.

On nights like this my only friend
Is the curved reflection in the glass,
Like I, befuddled
By the bitter sacramental wine.

In rows by tables close to mine
The drowsy waiters stand,
While drunks with rabbits' eyes cry out,
'In vino veritas!'

Each night, at one suggestive hour
--Do I dream or do I see?--
The figure of a girl in silk
Passes by the window pane.

Then slowly, slight, she makes her way
Among the drunken men--alone--
As frail as smoke within the room,
And sits beside the window frame.

A vestal dressed for solemn rites,
Her skirts, like wine, excite,
Her hat with plumes among the smoke
And rings on every finger.

Strange: to watch her weave that spell
I see beneath a darkened veil;
Strange still the promise held
Of veiled and distant shores.

The secret spell is mine to keep
--Deliverance in the sun--
Into the center of my soul
The wine and she have found their way.

I am turned on a spire of feathers--
My brain, like plumes, begins to sway--
Drawn by the blue, the glass of her eyes,
Its light on distant shores.

Now in my soul a treasure lies,
And I am keeper of the key!
In truth, O drunken prodigy,
I know: in wine is truth!

(Alexandr Blok)

 

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