‘To Earthly Solace…’ by Anna Akhmatova

To earthly solace, heart, be not a prey,

To wife and home do not attach yourself,

Take the bread out of your child’s mouth,

And to a stranger give the bread away.

Become the humblest servant to the man

Who was your blackest enemy,

Call by your brother’s name the forest wolf,

And do not ask God for anything.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1922)

– from Anno Domini MCMXXI translation by D. M. Thomas

‘Lying In Me…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Lying in me, as though it were a white

Stone in the depths of a well, is one

Memory that I cannot, will not, fight:

It is happiness and it is pain.

 

Anyone looking straight into my eyes

Could not help seeing it, and could not fail

To become thoughtful, more sad and quiet

Than if he were listening to some tragic tale.

 

I know the gods changed people into things,

Leaving their consciousness alive and free.

To keep alive the wonder of suffering,

You have been metamorphed into me.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (Summer 1916, Slepnyovo)

– from Белая стая (White Flock, 1917) translation by D. M. Thomas

‘The Churchyard’s Quiet…’ by Anna Akhmatova

The churchyard’s quiet on a Sunday,

Under an oak board I shall rest.

Come to me, my dearest, running,

Come to your mama, like a guest.

Over the stream and hillside run,

So the slow grown-ups disappear;

From far, the keen eyes of my son

Will recognize my cross. My dear,

I know I can’t expect you to

Remember me, who neither kissed

And dandled you, nor scolded you,

Nor took you to the eucharist.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1915)

– from Белая стая (White Flock, 1917) translation by D. M. Thomas

Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg

Please Mrs Butler

This boy Derek Drew

Keeps copying my work, Miss.

What shall I do?

 

Go and sit in the hall, dear.

Go and sit in the sink.

Take your books on the roof, my lamb.

Do whatever you think.

 

Please Mrs Butler

This boy Derek Drew

Keeps taking my rubber, Miss.

What shall I do?

 

Keep it in your hand, dear.

Hide it up your vest.

Swallow it if you like, love.

Do what you think best.

 

Please Mrs Butler

This boy Derek Drew

Keeps calling me rude names, Miss.

What shall I do?

 

Lock yourself in the cupboard, dear.

Run away to sea.

Do whatever you can, my flower.

But don’t ask me!

 

by Allan Ahlberg

This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

 

But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another’s throats.

 

Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

And don’t have any kids yourself.

 

by Philip Larkin ( 1922 – 1980)

The Sundial by Gillian Clarke

Owain was ill today. In the night

He was delirious, shouting of lions

In the sleepless heat. Today, dry

And pale, he took a paper circle,

Laid it on the grass which held it

with curling fingers. In the still

Centre he pushed the broken bean

Stick, gathering twelve fragments

Of stone, placed them at measured

Distances. Then he crouched, slightly

Trembling with fever, calculating

The mathematics of sunshine.

 

He looked up, his eyes dark,

Intelligently adult as though

The wave of fever taught silence

And immobility for the first time.

Here, in his enforced rest, he found

Deliberation, and the slow finger

Of light, quieter than night lions,

More worthy of his concentration.

All day he told the time to me.

All day we felt and watched the sun

Caged in its white diurnal heat,

Pointing at us with its black stick.

 

by Gillian Clarke

from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)

The Cool Night Air

Once more spring has passed and it is now summer. A cool breeze drifts past the window.
I think of childhood and how the days of summer did not end back then.
Now, when the light begins to fail, I want to go for a walk in the cool night air.

Where to? I do not know.
Until what time? I do not care.
If I left I would not return. What is there to return to?

People have dreams and make memories in the dark hours. Especially during the summer when the darkness is a soothing comfort not a sign of insensitive death.

As a child you think adults have freedom while you yourself have routines and people to answer to.
You answer to your parents, your teachers, you community.
When you are an adult you still have chains but now they are invisible.

The barbed wire of etiquette twisted around you harming you every time you allow others to treat you as an inferior for decorum’s sake.
The razor blades of financial worries giving you the death of a thousand cuts.
The pressure of self-inflicted moral restraints contorting who you were, are and will be.

Existentialism poses the question asking what exactly is stopping you from dropping everything and walking away. These tethers we bind ourselves with are not real, physical, things. But they are there all the same.
An adult answers to their employer, to their family, to their peers and to the government that cannot see them as anything other than a statistic to be checked off the page.

The night air soothes the skin. Caresses it like a woman placating the injured thinking this tactile moment of amity, invading the solitude of suffering, will ease the tormented and assure their soul.

I will walk away from the lights of mankind’s pointless struggle against the beautiful night but in the end, no matter what direction I walk in, eventually I will return to it.
The only other choice is to blindly walk off a cliff into the awaiting pitch black sea who will claim me for her own. A phone will ring at the chapel down the bottom of the slope and the Samaritans will be told it was too late but they will go home in the end and sleep peacefully.

I cannot go because I will not return. There is nowhere to go. I am ensnared by responsibilities others have foisted on me because of the choices I made and the indecisions I allowed. I am in a gilded cage of my own creation and soon the night will past. I will wait. Wait until it returns once again. The cycle will continue until autumn kills it once more, dressing the floor with its golden red entrails and we bow our heads during the winter songs where the world is washed away to muddied grey and white tones.

The air is stale in here. I can breathe – but only with a heavy heart. I will embrace the night and sleep. I know when I awake the light wll have been victorious over the night and the cycle of maturity will repeat once more.


I have the past few evenings wanted to go for a walk. I have not though. I don’t know where I would go. There is nowhere but to the town with its glittering lights and dirty covered paving. To sit in a bar and drink until the ring of the bell for last orders and the long, lonely, walk back home. Tomorrow is another day – a day like any other day.

Unplanned piece. Flawed but then it fills the blog until the next entry.

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