This, not graveyard roses, is my gift;
And I won’t burn sticks of incense:
You died as unflinchingly as you lived,
With magnificent defiance.
Drank wine, and joked – were still the wittiest,
Choked on the stifling air.
You yourself let in the terrible guest
And stayed alone with her.
Now you’re no more. And at your funeral feast
We can expect no comment from the mutes
On your high, stricken life. One voice at least
Must break the silence, like a flute.
O, who would have believed that I who have been tossed
On a slow fire to smoulder, I, the buried days’
Orphan and weeping mother, I who have lost
Everything, and forgotten everyone, half-crazed –
Would be recalling one so full of evergy
And will, and touched by that creative flame,
Who only yesterday, it seems, chatted to me,
Hiding the illness crucifying him.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
(House on the Fontanka, 1940)
from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)
translation by D. M. Thomas