Personal Love without Idolatry – Bodiliness, Anonymity, Vanity, Sex, Tenderness, Memory, Poetry, Mortality

Hands – and into the circle

Hands – and into the circle
Of over-trades and over-compromises!
Only how not to confuse lips,
How not to mix up hands!

From all of these
Vanities I cannot sleep from –
Having raised my hands,
Dear, I beg my memory! –

That in my poems –
The dust-hole of my soarings up!
You did not wither,
You did not dry like others,

That in my chest –
In my thousand-chested mass grave! –
Rains of millennia
Could not wash you away…

Body among bodies, –
You, who were for me abyss of two stars! –
That you didn’t become decomposed
With label: not identified.

July 9, 1922

(Transl. by Victor Enyutin)

It is necessary to be Tsvetaeva to put before herself such an impossible task of depicting personal love (PL) through bodily metaphors (usually reserved for expressing sexual emotions). And it’s necessary to be Tsvetaeva to be able to prove that verbal combinations with body can, indeed, be adequate for describing the unique contour of personal love. But Tsvetaeva in “Hands…” does even more – to the images of bodily intimacy she adds the images of… triviality and that of materiality/mortality to make a case for authentic love (love without idolatry or idealization of the amorous object and without any symbiotic fixation on the beloved).

By cultural reasons (by near universal repression of sexuality and as a result – by the split between love and sex that makes love other-worldly and sex primitive or just a matter of craft) we perceive personal love in a golden frame of its cult – with rituals of sentimental or conformist respect and fake or shallow responsibility, with expectation of unconditional happiness. Such cultural mythology, almost ideology of PL as glory/glamour, is responsible for our pains and disappointments, even shock when reality starts to insist on truth, and, indirectly, on the necessity to be psychologically prepared to meet real love with its ordeals. But how can love look without the bridal veil by which social normativity legitimizes emotional and physical intimacy as corresponding to social expectations? And what is personal love (PL) when it corresponds to human existential destiny, if it is defined by the truth of life?

PL in “Hands…” can be barely recognizable because it is buried in what can be called images of bodiliness, that of triviality and that of materiality/mortality. But this love undressed from religious pomposity and moralistic vulgarity of platitudes about the purity of human soul – is tempered by sun and wind of reality. It’s much stronger and more genuine than we are used to it in life and in poetry. The poem gives us PL without any need for wooden legs of ideology of love. Tsvetaeva had to reduce “exuberance” of PL into somatic sensations and bodily attributes – into reality of love as a part of human existence.

The images of love’s bodilines in the poem – “body” is mentioned two times, “hands” – three times, “chest“ – two times, and “lips“ – one time.

The images of love’s “triviality” – over-trades (over-exchanges), over-compromises, vanities, like others, label, not being identified.

The images of love’s materiality/mortality – the dust-hole, to wither, to dry, mass grave, body among bodies, abyss, to decompose.

The images of love’s love – how not to fuse lips, how not to mix up hands, having raised my hands, I beg my memory, that you didn’t wither, that you didn’t dry, that rains of millennia could not wash you away, that you didn’t become decomposed with label: not identified.

Through the images of love’s love Tsvetaeva tries to overcome earthly love’s bodiliness, “triviality” and materiality/mortality with existential spirituality, but our ability to spiritually care for those we love is very weak, contrary to the spirit of egoistic optimism of PL ideologies that want us believe that we are ghosts temporarily protected by material (bodily) membrane around us that helps us survive before we’ll pass on to a better environment.

Human love is – bodiliness, triviality, materiality/mortality and more than this (memory and poetry), but the paradox is that this “more than this” (feelings and images of love’s love) can only exist vis-à-vis bodilines, triviality and materiality/mortality, that the status of immortality can be given exactly to those who agree to be mortal, that immortality is not a physical but a poetic and an amorous phenomenon (if by “poetic” we mean not necessarily writing poems but feeling poetically/amorously). Tsvetaeva saves her beloved through an “atheistic” gesture of burying him in her poems and in her chest. Love in “Hands – and into the Circle…” cares about the uniqueness of relationship between two, about the participation of memory in love, that makes love even more unique, and continues even when it’s only in memory and poetry (in poems and/or poetic feelings).

Tsvetaeva makes poetic/amorous memory an instrument and an area of salvation of the human being in love while she emphasizes the relativity and powerlessness of this solution (as it‘s always the case with us, mortals). She pushes us from the safety of a guaranteed world of guaranteed (eternal) values into existential truth, where nothing is decided in advance, where we are destined to make or not make changes in how we feel about other human beings.

Poetry like love – doesn’t save from death (it saves us from immortality – from anti-amorous and anti-poetic – frozen life). But poetic/amorous mortality is pathetically, poetically and absurdly immortal – we feel its absoluteness (immortality) inside life.

Tsvetaeva’s poem is ultimately about – the immortality of amorous/poetic mortality.

Between two lines in the last (fifth) stanza: “Body among bodies, -“, and “You, who were for me an abyss of two stars!… -” (Tsvetaeva’s definition of the orgasm), she “registers” the phenomenon of transformation between “triviality” of love and its sacredness, between its mortality and its (amorous/poetic) immortality.