‘So Many Requests, Always, From A Lover…’ by Anna Akmatova

So many requests, always, from a lover!

None when they fall out of love.

I’m glad the water does not move

Under the colourless ice of the river.

 

And I’ll stand – God help me! – on this ice,

However light and brittle it is,

And you… take care of our letters,

That our descendants not misjudge us,

 

That they may read and understand

More clearly what you are, wise, brave.

In your glorious biography

No row of dots should stand.

 

Earth’s drink is much too sweet,

Love’s nets too close together.

May my name be in the textbooks

Of children playing in the street.

 

When they’ve read my grievous story,

May they smile behind their desklids…

If I can’t have love, if I can’t find peace,

Give me a bitter glory.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1913)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘Nobody Came To Meet Me…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Nobody came to meet me

with a lantern,

Had to find my way up

the steps by weak moonlight

 

And there he was, under

the green lamp, and

With a corpse’s smile

he whispered, ‘Your voice

 

Is strange Cinderella…’

Fire dying in the hearth,

Cricket chirping. Ah!

someone’s taken my shoe

 

As a souvenir, and with

lowered eyes given me

Three carnations.

Dear mementoes,

 

Where can I hide you?

And it’s a bitter thought

That my little white shoe

will be tried by everyone.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1913)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

A Ride by Anna Akhmatova

My feather was brushing the top of the carriage

And I was looking into his eyes.

There was a pining in my heart

I could not recognise.

 

The evening was windless, chained

Solidly under a cloudbank,

As if someone had drawn the Bois de Boulogne

In an old album in black Indian ink.

 

A mingled smell of lilac and benzine,

A peaceful watchfulness.

His hand touched my knees

A second time almost without trembling.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (May, 1913)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘We’re All Drunkards Here…’ by Anna Akhmatova

We’re all drunkards here. Harlots.

Joylessly we’re stuck together.

On the walls, scarlet

Flowers, birds of a feather,

 

Pine for clouds. Your black pipe

Makes strange shapes rise.

I wear my skirt tight

To my slim thighs.

 

Windows tightly shut.

What’s that? Frost? Thunder?

Did you steal your eyes, I wonder,

From a cautious cat?

 

O my heart, how you yearn

For your dying hour…

And that woman dancing there

Will eternally burn.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1 January, 1913)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas