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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