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For Anna Akhmatova

by Betania Tesch

Who will lament this woman's fate?
Does she not seem the least of things lost?
My heart alone will never forget her,
Who forfeited life for a single glance.

- Anna Akhmatova from Lot's Wife

But listen, I am warning you
I'm living for the very last time.
Not as a swallow, nor a maple,
Not as a reed, nor as a star,
Not as spring water,
Nor as the toll of bells...
Will I return to trouble men
Nor will I vex their dreams again
With my insatiable moans.

- Anna Akhmatova, But I am warning you...

Milochka, you promised not to return
but it is doubtful that you ever left
from the pages of hidden verse
you whittled out of agony
with the razorsharp blade of grief.

Your lamentations still pull my heart
across time and space
as you remain silently screaming
with the withered mouth of your rhyme
which you poured into the heads
of millions and preserved from the
guillotine of your beloved country.

And I mourn you, Anya,
for each line choked in your throat
by the rough bread of your utopian Russia
leaving you starving and widowed
even by your poetry,
you who forfeited life
not for a glance
but a long drawn look
at the reality of your world,
not quickly turned to salt
but slowly erroded
by the murders of your beloveds
and the loss of your hope.

Oh, Anna,
your poems are a pile a salt
through which your moans
burn into the open wound on my heart.


Author's Note: I've been reading her in Russian and in English and I think she's got the deepest grip on pain of anyone I've ever seen. Both her husband and son were victims of the Red Purges under Stalin as were many of her closests friends. Much of her poetry survived because it was hidden and her most famous piece, "Requiem" (which isn't quoted here because it's 10 pages long and very involved), was wholly memorised by the wife of her then purged contemporary, Osip Mandelshtam. The survival of her work, even the writing of it is an act of courage in a time when she could have easily been executed and was already a target, being called "a cross between a nun and a whore" for being a poetess who wrote mostly about herself and her personal relation to the world rather than Soviet praises. I am practially writing an essay here...but I want you to see why she is worthy of this poem and much more than this. Please, read her work, comment on this with suggestions or personal feelings...thank you.

Posted on 12/15/2004
Copyright © 2020 Betania Tesch

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Ashok Sharda on 12/19/04 at 04:17 AM

You seem so completely identified with this poet and her pains.Her moans does sound insatiable, ' Who forfeited life for a single glance.'Yes, her silent screams are capable of pulling any one's heart across space and time.

Posted by Steve Baba on 10/05/10 at 02:13 AM


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