Музыка (Music) by Anna Akhmatova

for D. D. Sh.

Something miraculous burns brightly;

its facets form before my eyes.

And it alone can speak to me

when no one will stand by my side.

 

When my last friends had turned and gone

from where I lay, it remained close –

burst into blossom, into song,

like a first storm, like speaking flowers.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1958)

translation by Boris Dralyuk


Fun facts: the D. D. Sh. this poem is dedicated to is the famous composer Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich (Дмитрий Дмитриевич Шостакович) whose music she liked though they held opposing views. Anna Akhmatova and Dmitry Shostakovich met before the war. They met quite often at various cultural events, although they did not get along with each other. According to one version, Shostakovich did not share the poet’s views on dissidence, believing that it wasn’t worthwhile to help Russian writers abroad, since they openly opposed Soviet power. Akhmatova, in turn, was convinced that the country should know its heroes, and went as far as to even solicit, before her friends, the editors of magazines to begin publishing the works of emigrants.


Akhmatova reciting her poem:


Original Cyrillic text:

Музыка

Д. Д. Ш.

В ней что-то чудотворное горит,
И на глазах ее края гранятся.
Она одна со мною говорит,
Когда другие подойти боятся.
Когда последний друг отвел глаза,
Она была со мной одна в могиле
И пела словно первая гроза
Иль будто все цветы заговорили.

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Red Balloon by Dannie Abse

It sailed across the startled town,

over chapels, over chimney-pots,

wind-blown above a block of flats

before it floated down.

 

Oddly, it landed where I stood,

and finding’s keeping, as you know.

I breathed on it, I polished it,

till it shone like living blood.

 

It was my shame, it was my joy,

it brought me notoriety.

From all of Wales the rude boy came,

it ceased to be a toy.

 

I heard the girls of Cardiff sigh

When my balloon, my red balloon,

soared higher like a happiness

towards the dark blue sky.

 

Nine months since, have I boasted of

my unique, my only precious;

but to no one dare I show it now

however long they swear their love.

 

‘It’s a Jew’s balloon,’ my best friend cried,

‘stained with our dear Lord’s blood.’

‘That I’m a Jew is true,’ I said,

said I, ‘that cannot be denied.’

 

‘What relevance?’ I asked, surprised,

‘what’s religion to do with this?’

‘Your red balloon’s a Jew’s balloon,

let’s get it circumcised.’

 

Then some boys laughed and some boys cursed,

some unsheathed their dirty knives:

some lunged, some clawed at my balloon,

but still it would not burst.

 

They bled my nose, they cut my eye,

half conscious in the street I heard,

‘Give up, give up your red balloon.’

I don’t know exactly why.

 

Father, bolt the door, turn the key,

lest those sad, brash boys return

to insult my faith and steal

my red balloon from me.

 

by Dannie Abse

from Poems, Golders Green (1962)


Fun facts: Dannie Abse was born in Cardiff, Wales, to a Jewish family. He was the younger brother of politician and reformer Leo Abse and the eminent psychoanalyst, Wilfred Abse. Unusually for a middle-class Jewish boy, Dannie Abse attended St Illtyd’s College, a working-class Catholic school in Splott.

At The Memorial by Emyr Humphreys

We remember wartime

Wartime

The leaves were red

Columns

Backs

Silences

Were broken

And skies were tight.

 

Singers in uniform

Were frozen

Stony men

Were children

Nights

Flesh

Steel

Cracked burst buckled

Nothing was

The Target

Nowhere

The Retreat.

 

We managed

The living the key workers

The throats of loyal trumpets

The minds of washed out cockpits

Our prayers were pistons

We managed

Our leaders in bunkers

 

As indestructable as rats

The tongues and necks

Of true survivors

 

In one cold wood

A headless boy

Still walks

A thin man prays

In his own blood

The dead

On every side

Wait to be counted

 

Catalogues

Printed

In old blood

 

Old wars

Are not doors

They are the walls

Of empty tombs

Bowed to

At stated times

By true survivors

Only dreams

Have hinges.

 

by Emyr Humphreys


Fun fact: He registered as a conscientious objector in the Second World War, working on a farm, and later doing relief work in Egypt and Italy. After the war he worked as a teacher, as a radio producer at the BBC and later became a lecturer in drama at Bangor University.