The Poetry of Anna Akmatova

The burning light was stifling.
But his glances were like rays.
I only shuddered:
This man can tame me.
He bowed---He will say something—
The blood drained from my face.
Let love lie on my life
Like a stone on a grave.
You don't love [me], you don't want to look?
Oh, how handsome you are, you bastard!
And I, who from childhood was winged,
Cannot fly up in the air.
Mist blinds my eyes,
Faces and things interflow.
I see only the crimson tulip,
The tulip in your buttonhole.
As simple manners require,
You approached me with a smile,
Half-tender and half-lazy,
And touched my hand with a kiss—
The eyes of icons, ancient, mysterious,
Were looking down at me…
Ten years of despair and screams,
All my nights without sleep,
I put into one quiet word
And spoke it—In vain.
You went away, and once more
My soul became empty and clear.

Asia, your eyes of a lynx,
See through something in me,
Awaken something buried
And born out of silence,
And boring, and hard,
As the noon sun in Termez.
As if proto-memory like molten lava
Flowed into my conscious mind,
As if I were drinking my tears
From a stranger's palms.



…And that men who, for me, is now
Nobody, but was my concern
And consolation in the bitterest years,
Already wanders like a specter on the outskirts,
The back streets and back yards of life,
Heavy, stupefied, insane,
His teeth bared like a wolf…
God, God, God,
How gravely I have sinned before you!
Leave me some pity, at least…

You have invented me. No one like that on the earth,
Nor can earth have someone like that.
Neither surgeon can heal, nor poet soothe—
The shadow of your ghost haunts me day and night.
We met in an unusual year
When the force of the world had dried up.
Everything was in mourning, everything drooped from misfortune;
Only the graves were still fresh.
No street lamps: the banks of the Neva were black.
Night stood deaf around all the walls…
It was then my voice shouted for you!
What was I doing---I couldn't yet understand.
And you came to me, as if led by a star,
You came through that tragic autumn
To a house emptied forever, but
A horde of poems on fire flowed through its door.

Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Elisavietta Ritchie

Among those of mine read over Voice of American Russian programs; these are in Tightening The Circle Over Eel Country won Great Lakes Colleges Association's "New Writer's Award for Best First Book of Poetry" 1975-76




Elisavietta Ritchie
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