And I Was Alive

And I was alive in the blizzard of the blossoming pear,
Myself I stood in the storm of the bird–cherry tree.
It was all leaflife and starshower, unerring, self–shattering
And it was all aimed at me.

What is this dire delight flowering fleeing always earth?
What is being? What is truth?

Blossoms rupture and rapture the air,
All hover and hammer,
Time intensified and time intolerable, sweetness raveling rot.
It is now. It is not.

(May 4, 1937)

“And I Was Alive“ from the book Stolen Air by Osip Mandelstam, selected and translated by Christian Wiman. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Wiman. Reprinted courtesy of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

This poem was originally read in the On Being episode “How Does One Remember God?