[ Excerpt from] Night In A Trench by Velimir Khlebnikov

We need flowers to lay on coffins,

but coffins tell us we are flowers

and last no longer than a flower.

 

by Велимир Хлебников (Velimir Khlebnikov)

a.k.a. Виктор Владимирович Хлебников

(Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov)

(1920)

translated by Robert Chandler

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Everyone Sang by Siegfried Sassoon

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;

And I was filled with such delight

As prisoned birds must find in freedom

Winging wildly across the white

Orchards and dark-green fields; on; on; and out of sight.

 

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted,

And beauty came like the setting sun.

My heart was shaken with tears; and horror

Drifted away… O but every one

Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing

will never be done.

 

by Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

In Memory of V. C. Sreznevskaya by Anna Akhmatova

Impossible almost, for you were always here:

In the shade of blessed limes, in hospitals and bockades,

In the prison-cell, and where there were evil birds,

Lush grasses, and terrifying water.

How everything has changed, but you were always here,

And it seems to me that I have lost half my soul,

The half you were – in which I knew the reason why

Something important happened. Now I’ve forgotten…

But your clear voice is calling and it asks me not

To grieve, but wait for death as for a miracle.

What can I do! I’ll try.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

-written at Komarovo, St Petersburg on 9 September 1964

– from Седьмая книга (‘The Seventh Book’)

-translation by D. M. Thomas

Before A Map Of Russia by Teffi

In a strange house, in a far away land,

her portrait hangs on the wall;

she herself is dying like a beggar woman,

lying on straw, in pain that can’t be told.

 

But here she looks as she always did look –

she is young, rich and draped

in the luxurious green cloak

in which she was always portrayed.

 

I gaze at your counternance as if at an icon…

‘Blessed be your name slaughtered Rus!’

I quietly touch your cloak with one hand;

and with that same hand make the sign of the cross.

 

by Тэффи (Teffi) (1872 – 1952)

a.k.a. Надежда Александровна Лoхвицкая (Nadezhda Alexandrovna Lokhvitskaya)

translated by Robert Chandler

Lot’s Wife by Anna Akhmatova

And the just man trailed God’s messenger,

His huge, light shape devoured the black hill.

But uneasiness shadowed his wife and spoke to her:

‘it’s not too late, you can look back still

 

At the red towers of Sodom, the place that bore you,

The square in which you sang, the spinning-shed,

At the empty windows of that upper storey

Where children blessed your happy marriage-bed.’

 

Her eyes that were still turning when a bolt

Of pain shot through them, were instantly blind;

Her body turned into transparent salt,

And her swift legs were rooted to the ground.

 

Who mourns one woman in a holocaust?

Surely her death has no significance?

Yet in my heart she never will be lost,

She who gave up her life to steal one glance.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1922-1924)

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

‘To Fall Ill As One Should…’ by Anna Akhmatova

To fall ill as one should, deliriously

Hot, meet everyone again,

To stroll broad avenues in the seashore garden

Full of the wind and the sun.

 

Even the dead, today, have agreed to come,

And the exiles, into my house.

Lead the child to me by the hand.

Long I have missed him.

 

I shall eat blue grapes with those who are dead,

Drink the iced

Wine, and watch the grey waterfall pour

On to the damp flint bed.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1922)

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

‘I Don’t Know If You’re Alive Or Dead…’ by Anna Akhmatova

I don’t know if you’re alive or dead.

Can you on earth be sought,

Or only when the sunsets fade

Be mourned serenely in my thought?

 

All is for you: the daily prayer,

The sleepless heat at night,

And of my verses, the white

Flock, and of my eyes, the blue fire.

 

No-one was more cherished, no-one tortured

Me more, not

Even the one who betrayed me to torture,

Not even the one who caressed me and forgot.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1915)

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