Jealousy by Inna Lisnianskaya

I look out the window at the retreating back.

Your jealousy is both touching and comical.

Can’t you see I am old and scary, a witch,

and apart from you no one needs me at all!


Well, what’s so touching and funny in that?

Jealous, you’re keen to send all of them packing

away from our home, with it’s roof’s mossy coat,

and our life which consists entirely of sacking.


But they do not desist, out of kindness of sorts –

from scraping away the moss, checking a rafter,

and they bring flowers as well, to thank me

for your still being alive and so well looked after.


And they stay away with something else, a notion

of how to survive as the years advance

and still be loved, and, with time running out,

to listen to eulogies, fresher than the news.


And my attachment, the truth of my love, no less,

they envy. So keep your jealousy buttoned up!

In this world, with its surfeit of painful loss,

let me open the door with a smile on my lips.


by Инна Львовна Лиснянская (Inna Lvovna Lisnyanskaya)


translated by Daniel Weissbort

She was the wife of Semyon Lipkin. The above poem was written shortly before his death.

There isn’t much about her in English so if you want to know more you may have to research her husband intially and work from there for biographical details. However one collection of her poetic works titled ‘Far from Sodom‘ is available in English should you wish to read more of her writing.

She was born in Baku and published her first collection in 1957 then moved to Moscow three years later. In 1979 she and her husband resigned from the Union of Soviet Writers in protest to the expulsion of Viktor Yerofeyev and Yevgeny Popov from it. The following seven years her works were only published abroad though from 1986 she was able to publish regularly and was awarded several important prizes.


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 Earthly Solace…’ by Anna Akhmatova

To earthly solace, heart, be not a prey,

To wife and home do not attach yourself,

Take the bread out of your child’s mouth,

And to a stranger give the bread away.

Become the humblest servant to the man

Who was your blackest enemy,

Call by your brother’s name the forest wolf,

And do not ask God for anything.


– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1922)

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