The Guest by Anna Akhmatova

Nothing is different: thin snow beats

Against the dining-room window-pane.

I am totally unchanged,

but a man came to see me.

 

I asked: ‘What do you want?’

He said: ‘To be with you in hell.’

I laughed, ‘Ah, there I can’t

Oblige you, you’d wish us ill.’

 

His dry hand touched a petal

With a light caress.

‘Tell me how they kiss you,

Tell me how you kiss.’

 

And his eyes, glinting dully,

Never slid from my ring;

Never a single muscle

Moved under his snakeskin.

 

O I know: his joy, his greed,

Is to know intensely, eye to eye,

There’s nothing that he needs,

Nothing I can deny.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1 January 1914)

– 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