Poems by Anna Ahmatova (Part II)

Continued from yesterday’s blog posting, translated into English by Sasha Soldatow. Anna Ahmatova somehow knew how to write of her dark experiences in the former Soviet Union.  Perhaps not unlike contemporary slavery that prevails in human trafficking which continues unabated around the world.

VII

THE VERDICT

The word landed with a stony thud

Onto my still-beating breast.

Never mind, I was prepared,

I will manage with the rest.

I have a lot of work to do today;

I need to slaughter memory,

Turn my living soul to stone

Then teach myself to live again. . .

But how. The hot summer rustles

Like a carnival outside my window;

I have long had this premonition

Of a bright day and a deserted house.

[22 June 1939. Summer. Fontannyi Dom]

VIII

TO DEATH

You will come anyway – so why not now?

I wait for you; things have become too hard.

I have turned out the lights and opened the door

For you, so simple and so wonderful.

Assume whatever shape you wish. Burst in

Like a shell of noxious gas. Creep up on me

Like a practised bandit with a heavy weapon.

Poison me, if you want, with a typhoid exhalation,

Or, with a simple tale prepared by you

(And known by all to the point of nausea), take me

Before the commander of the blue caps and let me glimpse

The house administrator’s terrified white face.

I don’t care anymore. The river Yenisey

Swirls on. The Pole star blazes.

The blue sparks of those much-loved eyes

Close over and cover the final horror.

[19 August 1939. Fontannyi Dom]

IX

Madness with its wings

Has covered half my soul

It feeds me fiery wine

And lures me into the abyss.

That’s when I understood

While listening to my alien delirium

That I must hand the victory

To it.

However much I nag

However much I beg

It will not let me take

One single thing away:

Not my son’s frightening eyes –

A suffering set in stone,

Or prison visiting hours

Or days that end in storms

Nor the sweet coolness of a hand

The anxious shade of lime trees

Nor the light distant sound

Of final comforting words.

[14 May 1940. Fontannyi Dom

X

CRUCIFIXION

Weep not for me, mother.

I am alive in my grave.

1.

A choir of angels glorified the greatest hour,

The heavens melted into flames.

To his father he said, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me!’

But to his mother, ‘Weep not for me. . .’

[1940. Fontannyi Dom]

2.

Magdalena smote herself and wept,

The favourite disciple turned to stone,

But there, where the mother stood silent,

Not one person dared to look.

[1943. Tashkent]

EPILOGUE

1.

I have learned how faces fall,

How terror can escape from lowered eyes,

How suffering can etch cruel pages

Of cuneiform-like marks upon the cheeks.

I know how dark or ash-blond strands of hair

Can suddenly turn white. I’ve learned to recognise

The fading smiles upon submissive lips,

The trembling fear inside a hollow laugh.

That’s why I pray not for myself

But all of you who stood there with me

Through fiercest cold and scorching July heat

Under a towering, completely blind red wall.

2.

The hour has come to remember the dead.

I see you, I hear you, I feel you:

The one who resisted the long drag to the open window;

The one who could no longer feel the kick of familiar

soil beneath her feet;

The one who, with a sudden flick of her head, replied,

‘I arrive here as if I’ve come home!’

I’d like to name you all by name, but the list

Has been removed and there is nowhere else to look.

So, I have woven you this wide shroud out of the humble words

I overheard you use. Everywhere, forever and always,

I will never forget one single thing. Even in new grief.

Even if they clamp shut my tormented mouth

Through which one hundred million people scream;

That’s how I wish them to remember me when I am dead

On the eve of my remembrance day.

If someone someday in this country

Decides to raise a memorial to me,

I give my consent to this festivity

But only on this condition – do not build it

By the sea where I was born,

I have severed my last ties with the sea;

Nor in the Tsar’s Park by the hallowed stump

Where an inconsolable shadow looks for me;

Build it here where I stood for three hundred hours

And no-one slid open the bolt.

Listen, even in blissful death I fear

That I will forget the Black Marias,

Forget how hatefully the door slammed and an old woman

Howled like a wounded beast.

Let the thawing ice flow like tears

From my immovable bronze eyelids

And let the prison dove coo in the distance

While ships sail quietly along the river.

[March 1940. Fontannyi Dom]

First published Sasha Soldatow Mayakovsky in Bondi Black Wattle Press 1993 Sydney.

Translated by Sasha Soldatow

 

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