Anna Akhmatova

April 24, 2009

akhmatova-photo[Why Poetry Matters]

I woke up this morning with one of Anna Akhmatova‘s poems cycling through my head.


[Portrait of Anna Akhmatova, by Nathan Altman] [link]

Throughout the course of the day, I haven’t been able to shake this poem, nor the mental image of her that accompanies it. There’s something completely intriguing about her very essence. Years after her death, after much dissection and analysis of her life and works, she continues to retain her mystery. I’m fascinated by her unusual beauty, by her beautiful words, and by the tragedy of her life.

modigliani-akhmatovaAnna Akhmatova by Amedeo Modigliani [link]

Ok. Enough faffing about on my part… on to the poem I’ve been stuck on!

The Guest

Nothing is changes: against the dining room windows
hard grains of whirling snow still beat.
I am what I was
But a man came to me.

“What do you want?” I asked.
“To be with you in hell,” he said.
I laughed. “It’s plain you mean
to have us both destroyed.”

He lifted his thin hand
and lightly stroked the flowers:
“Tell me how men kiss you,
tell me how you kiss.”

His torpid eyes were fixed
unblinking on my ring.
Not a single muscle stirred
in his clear, sardonic face.

Oh, I see: his game is that he knows
intimately, ardently,
there’s nothing from me he wants,
I have nothing to refuse.

– 1 January 1914
(trans. Max Hayward and Stanley Kunits)


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