There's an owl sewn

There’s an owl sewn - don’t stir -

Onto the pillow near us,

O, gray Moorka, do not purr,

My grandfather will hear us.

Nanny, candles will not burn,

Mice are scratching, fearless,

Why was that owl ever sewn?

I’m scared of his appearance.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

At the new moon

At the new moon, he walked out,

The friend I loved. I’ll be okay!

“Tightrope dancer,” He joked loud,

“How will you survive till May?”

As to a brother, I replied then,

Without gripes or jealousy,

But four new cloaks just aren’t likely

To replace this loss for me.

Let there be danger where I walk,

The way of grief fills me with dread…

The bottom of my shoes are chalked,

My Chinese parasol shines red!

The orchestra plays gleefully,

And lips are smiling with delight,

And yet the heart, the heart can see

The fifth lodge is unoccupied.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

I cried and I even repented

I cried and I even repented,

Let the sky thunder and groan!

My dark heart just couldn’t stand it

In your forsaken vacant home.

I know a pain that is unbearable,

The shame of returning stunned…

How frightening it is, how terrible,

To the unloved, to the quiet one.

If I bend down by him, sparkling,

As my necklace jingles free;

He will only ask me: “Darling!

Where was it you prayed for me?”
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

First return

A heavy shroud is placed onto the ground,

The bells are droning in a solemn show,

The spirit is again confused and troubled

By weary boredom of the Tsarskoe Selo.

Five years have passed. And all is dumb and dead here,

The world has reached the end, it seems.

The theme exhausted for all time is set here,

The palace rests now in a mortal dream.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

And cursing each other

And cursing each other with brute

Passion, white-hot all through,

Neither one of us understood

How small the earth was for two,

That memory torments with spite,

Afflicting the most strong-hearted,

That one learns to plead in the night:

Where has my friend departed?

And as the choir voices rise,

Happy and menacing, that instant,

The same two stern and certain eyes

Survey the soul, persistent.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

Reading Hamlet


The graveyard, wasteland, then the shore,

Where the river shines cool and blue.

You told me: “Get thee to a nunnery or

Find a fool to marry you…”

That’s the sort of thing princes say, I know,

But I’ll never forget this one, –

Like an ermine mantle let your words shine and flow

For many years, and on, and on.

1909 Kiev


As if by mistake, beguiled,

I used the familiar “You…”

A flashing shadow of a smile

Lit up your face anew.

When one blunders so absurdly,

Gazes will alight…

Still I love you, like some forty

Tender sisters might.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

Two Poems


The pillow is already hot

On both its sides.

The second candle’s at

Its end, and ravens’ cries

Are now resounding near.

I didn’t sleep this night,

Too late for sleep I fear,

Oh, how unbearably white

Is this curtain here.



The same voice and gaze aglow,

That same flaxen hair.

As it was a year ago.

Light-rays streaming through the air

Colors on white walls bestow…

Fragrances of lilies flow

And the simple words you share
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

To the beam of light I pray

To the beam of light I pray –

Straight, thin and pale, and suspended,

I’m silent since the break of day,

My heart – is all fragmented.

My washstand’s copper is all green

And yet the playing light

Makes it a wonder to be seen,

A pleasure to my sight.

It’s plain and innocent and bold,

In setting sun’s tranquility,

But in this temple, bare and cold,

As though a holiday of gold,

A comfort unto me.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

Three times she tortured me like this

Three times she tortured me like this.

I awoke with an anguished moan

And saw her thin pale hands

And mouth, scathing and black.

“Who were you kissing at dawn,

As you swore that you’d die if it ends,

And hiding your burning bliss,

Sobbed by the gate near the shack?

You walked him to death’s abyss,

He will die soon, and never come back.”

A falcon’s cry that rang so tensely,

That voice was strangely like another.

My body was wringing in pain,

With a chill that comes as you die.

And the spider web, woven so densely,

Fell down on the bed like a cover…

Oh, you weren’t laughing in vain,

My unforgiven merciless lie!
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian