White Nights Burning



White Nights Burning



No foreign sky protected me,
no stranger’s wing shielded my face.
I stand as witness to the common lot,
survivor of that time, that place.


                              From ‘Requiem’ by Anna Ahkmatova




No-one I love has been taken away at dawn


I have never had to follow

leaving my children crying in the dark


I have not spent any of my life in prison queues

nor listened to the turn of keys

the tread of marching soldiers


nor have I ever wished for miracles

in a Siberian blizzard


Leningrad, flapping worthless its short songs of farewell


Compared with this,

have never known suffering


I have never, like her, keened my grief with the wives

of the murdered streltsy

beneath the Kremlin towers


or before that, arrested a painter’s eye


attained such poise as this woman

in front of a landscape that  was already splintered


 Nathan Altman's portrait of Anna Akhmatova



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