A Letter to My Mother
Sergei Yesenin

translated by Russell Bittner

Hallo one last time, dearest mother of mine,
I trust that you're keeping my bed
as white as our birches; as starched as our pine;
as clear as our sky overhead.

The rumour now runs: my old mother misses
some devil -- apparently me.
That devil, in truth, remembers her kisses,
her ratty old coat and her tea.

Some evenings, I'll wager, the vision's perverse:
a tavern; your boy in a brawl
with sailors whose cunning eviscerates; worse:
his verse comes to rest on a wall.

Now pause for a moment to think this one through;
and tell me I've failed to comply
with wending what may not seem homeward to you,
but is, with a kiss, on the fly.

I think rather not -- and trust you'll make haste
to give this old rumour the lie.
The truth is I'm homesick and don't want to waste
one swinish night more in this sty.

In spring, I'll come running back home to your arms
outstretched, bearing handfuls of sage,
if you'll just relinquish those motherly charms
that can't come to grips with my age

and leave me to suffer my hedonist's binge
on wine-baited women and song,
the better to serve them my head on a fringe
of lace -- as they've asked all along.

But please don't suggest that redemption and grace
can somehow be gotten by prayer;
you are the steeple I mount for the chase,
the blue-ribbon prize at the fair.

So, empty your pail full of nettles and needs,
and don't let our cabin grow cold;
then strip your decrepit old coat of its beads
and hang it outside to be sold.