Alone


No one can hurt me. They've tried to kill me
so many times that nobody scares me now.
I know what kind of people want me dead:
believers in love, political, dressed like the poor.
Nothing they can do is hidden from me.
This whitewashed ordinary room of mine
is Paradise, cut off, a plain white square
that overlooks the same street, the same people.
There's almost nothing in it–a few chairs,
bed, table, books, a red Persian prayer rug
with a cross in a yellow field in the middle.
It could be called a trap; maybe it is.
But what I feel
is gratitude–to those who put me here
and in their way hung doors, cemented brick, glazed windows:
may they never be ill or worried; may life pass them by.
I'm up this morning with the workers, I see
my old face in the mirror, bleached with anxiety,
and what I am is what the sun is–
itself free of itself daily
even when its last thin light goes out under the rim of the earth.
Everything's dark. Whenever I close my eyes.
Behind me,
much smaller than my head, abandoned, clear,
trees, miles away across a field, a road, one pinkish cloud,
live in the oval glass.
I tie one short ribbon in my gray hair
and step back–younger than the face I see–
nowhere, homeless, peaceful,
and talk to the voice inside me who talks to me.
Sometimes I sit here. Winds from a frozen sea
blow through my open windows. I don't get up, I
don't close them. I let that air touch me. I freeze.
Twilight or dawn, the same bright streaks of cloud.

A dove pecks wheat from my extended hand,
those infinite blank pages, placed on my writing stand . . .

some desolate urge lifts my right hand, guides me.
Much much older than I am, it comes down,
blue as an eyelid, godless, and I write.


                                 Russian; trans. Stephen Berg


Anna Akhmatova, Russian, trans. Stephen Berg.