Someone is loose in Moscow who won't stop
Ringing my phone.
Whoever-it-is listens, then hangs up.
What do you want? A bushel of rhymes or so?
An autograph? A bone?
Someone's lucky number, for all I know,
Is the same, worse luck, as my own.
Or perhaps it's an angel calling collect
To invite me to God's throne.
Damn, I've been disconnected.
Or is it my old conscience, my power of choice
To which I've grown
A stranger, and which no longer knows my voice?
Are you standing there in some subway station, stiff
And hatless in the cold,
With your finger stuck in the dial as if
In a ring of gold?
And is there, outside the booth, a desperate throng
Tapping its coins on the glass, chafing its hands,
Like a line of people who have been waiting long
To be measured for wedding bands?
I hear you breathe and blow into some remote
Mouthpiece, and as you exhale
The lapels of my coat
Flutter like pennants in a gale.
The planet's communications are broken.
I'm tired of saying hello,
My questions might as well be unspoken.
Into the void my answers go.
Thrown together, together
With you, with you unknown.
Hello. Hello. Hello there.
Dial tone. Dial tone. Dial tone.
Translated from the Russian by Richard Wilbur