Poems & fragments by Anna Akhmatova

Happy Independence Day! I’ll be spending a lazy Fourth revelling in freedom from work, sitting on the back porch with my roommates, and reading like crazy.

Just discovered Anna Akhmatova, a Russian poet who wrote and published under the specter of Soviet communism and Stalinism; her husband of eleven years was shot in 1921 as a “counter-revolutionary,” her son and lover were arrested and sent to labor camps, and she herself was regularly persecuted and followed by the secret police. I picked Akhmatova’s Selected Poems up on a whim during my last trip to Cheapstacks in Grand Haven, MI, and she has immediately become one of my favorite poets. Some of the poems below are complete, others are excerpts - most of her poems have dates rather than titles.

O there are words that should not be repeated, And he who speaks them - is a spendthrift. Inexhaustible is the sky’s blue spindrift Alone, and the mercy of the Redeemer.

Now mirrors learn Not to expect smiles.

Bays broke the low shore, Boats ran out to sea, And I’d dry my salty hair On a flat rock a mile from land. Swam to me the green fish, Flew to me the white seagull, I was gay, and bold, and wicked, And never knew I was happy.

It goes on without end - the day, heavy and amber! How impossible is grief, how vain the waiting! And with a silver voice, again the deer Speaks in the deer-park of the Northern Lights. And I believe that there is cool snow, And a blue font for those whose hands are empty, And a small sledge is being wildly ridden, Under the ancient chimes of distant bells.

Under an empty dwelling’s frozen roof, Dead days. Here no living comes. I read the Acts of the Apostles And the Psalms.

But the stars are blue, the hoar-frost downy, And each morning more wonderful, And in the Bible a red maple leaf Marks the pages of the Song of Songs.

Ryan McCarl
Attorney | Writer | Educator