A Girlfriend

By Marina Tsvetaeva
Translated by Mary Jane White

“I’m not leaving!—This isn’t the end!” And she clings and clings . . .

But in her breast—the swell

Of looming waters,

Of notes . . . Count on it: sealed as

A sacrament: we’re bound to leave each other!


5 October 1923


Marina Tsvetaeva was born in Moscow in 1892, and began to publish in her teens, to multiple good reviews. She was a working contemporary of Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, Boris Pasternak and Rainer Maria Rilke, all of whom where important to her as rival, lover, correspondent and mentor, respectively. Tsvetaeva was admired by Joseph Brodsky in 1978: “Well, if you are talking about the twentieth century, I’ll give you a list of poets. Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva (and she is the greatest one, in my view. The greatest poet in the twentieth century was a woman.”

Mary Jane White, USA, MFA Iowa Writers’ Workshop, NEA Fellowships (1979, 1985 in poetry and translation), awarded scholarships to Bread Loaf (1979, 2016) and Squaw Valley Community of Writers (2006). Starry Sky to Starry Sky (1988, Holy Cow! Press) contains translations of Tsvetaeva first published in The American Poetry Review and Willow Springs. Recent Tsvetaeva translations include: “New Year’s, an elegy for Rilke,” (Adastra Press, Massachusetts), “Poem of the Hill” (The New England Review, 2007), “Poem of the End” (The Hudson Review, 2008), reprinted in From a Terrace in Prague (Prague, 2011), and Poets Translate Poets (Syracuse, 2013).