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

Bloody Men by Wendy Cope

Bloody men are bloody buses –

You wait for about a year

And as soon as one approaches your stop

Two or three others appear.

 

You look at them flashing their indicators,

Offering you a ride.

You’re trying to read the destinations,

You haven’t much time to decide.

 

If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.

Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze

While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by

And the minutes, the hours, the days.

 

by Wendy Cope