Two of the loveliest words
And when we set off for the country, Papa,
you cannot imagine our excitement.
We could not keep the children quiet, nor ourselves.
And when we arrived, you cannot imagine our despair.
Such a change from the old days!
I don’t know what was saddest—that you weren’t there still,
or that you were but we couldn’t find you.
Then the dog, tail wagging, went missing,
into the lake, we think. Then Pauline, who, however,
had waved to us cheerfully first.
Then I myself never came back—from where?—
and someone called the police who, however,
only left a recording: ‘We’ve gone to the country today.
As it is Sunday, please call your family doctor,
here is the number.’ And I thought to myself,
we need someone to translate this
the way Constance Garnett—
aren’t they two of the loveliest words in the language?
I meditate upon them—opened up the Russians to us.
Because we cannot read without that,
only the memory of the heart,
only a scattering of place-names,
but not, for instance, why did we set off,
and why were we already there,
and who, exactly, are you, Papa?