[ 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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‘You Took Me’ by Olga Berggolts

You took me –

I was sullen, without affection,

with only black thoughts

and convict ravings

and a widow’s unhealed anguish

and a past love that wasn’t past

You took me as a wife –

not for joy’s sake,

not of your own accord

but out of love.

 

by Ольга Фёдоровна Берггольц (Olga Fyodorovna Berggolts)

a.k.a. Olga Fyodorovna Bergholz

(1942)

translated by Robert Chandler


A Soviet poet, writer, playwright and journalist. She is most famous for her work on the Leningrad radio during the city’s blockade, when she became the symbol of city’s strength and determination.

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

I Have Come To Take Your Place Sister… by Anna Akhmatova

-I have come to take your place, sister,

At the high fire in the forest’s heart.

 

Your eyes have grown dull, your tears cloudy,

Your hair is grey.

 

You don’t understand the songs birds sing

Anymore, nor stars, nor summer lighting.

 

Don’t hear it when the women strike

The tamborine; yet you fear the silence.

 

I have come to take your place, sister,

At the high fire in the forest’s heart’…

 

-‘You’ve come to put me in the grave.

Where is your shovel and your spade?

You’re carrying just a flute.

I’m not going to blame you,

Sadly a long time ago

My voice fell mute.

 

Have my clothes to wear,

Answer my fears with silence,

Let the wind blow

Through your hair, smell of the lilac.

You have come by a hard road

To be lit up by this fire.’

 

And one went away, ceding

The place to another, wandering

Like a blind woman reading

An unfamiliar narrow path,

 

And still it seemed to her a flame

Was close… In her hand a tamborine…

And she was like a white flag,

And like the light of a beacon.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1912)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas