To Anna Akhmatova
'It isn't me, someone else is suffering. I couldn't.'
- from 'Requiem' by Anna Akhmatova
Yes, in Central Library, I read of you squandering
everything that mattered, to put down on pages
nothing but horrors of the comic burst, requiem,
and chronicles of all that coalfire - that upset
flaring somewhere around the Kremlin towers -
a slow burn in every single heart in your homeland
where scissors clipped angels' wings, and you,
like all others, had to eat the bread of adversity.
You Zhadanov's 'half nun, half harlot' had writhed
in agony's serpentine coils in the Yezhov years,
with convicts often sighing in Stalin's purgatory -
a witness to the path of History's winged chariot.
You watched all of them hard Bolsheviks whoring
after dreams - crazy, tempting but a spurious gain.
Yes, through the darkness you drove as if cutting
away across cold steppes and tundras in Siberia;
you just dared warming yourself up on memories
against the frost of forgetting; not all of them
beehives full of honey, some bore on their backs
Revolution's scars as if by molten steel on the skin.
An exile's life you had to live: it was the moment
you knew would come with the axe's final stroke.
Would that I could, on tarred Moscow streets,
keep all the footprints you left, and the tears
the mother in you wept in misery for Lev, writing
for the lord of all mishaps incorrigible hymns!
At last, their sighs couldn't startle you anymore:
oh! life is just another elegy you wrote in earnest.
from IN LOVE WITH A GORGON (2010)