The smell of dark blue

The smell of dark blue grapes is sweet…

Intoxicating vastness calls.

Your voice is flat and downbeat.

I pity no one, not a soul.

The spiderwebs surround the berries,

Thin are the stems of supple vines,

The river’s bright blue water carries

The clouds of white like floes of ice.

The sun is bright. The sun is high.

Go tell the wave your pain’s abyss.

She’ll likely listen and reply,

And, maybe, even start to kiss.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

Inscription on an unfinished portrait

O, do not sigh about me, anxious,

This grief is criminal and vain,

Here, on the grayness of the canvas,

I have emerged so strange and vague.

With frenzy smiling in my eyes,

With flailing arms, the pain of fracture,

And I could not be otherwise

Before the bitter hour of rapture.

He wanted this, he ordered this

With words so dead and full of spite.

And crimson worry filled my lips,

And cheeks, like snow, were polished white.

But he is sinless, free of guilt,

He left, he’s gazing at new eyes,

But I don’t dream a thing, I wilt

In lethargy before demise.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

No letter came for me today

No letter came for me today:

Did he forget or go away thereafter,

The spring is like a trill of silver laughter

The boats are bobbing in the bay.

No letter came for me today…

He was with me not very long ago,

So much in love, so gentle and all mine,

But that was still the white of wintertime,

Now spring is here, with poison in its woe

He was with me not very long ago…

I hear: the fiddle bow is trembling and light,

It beats, it beats as if from deathly ache,

And I’m afraid now that my heart will break

And leave unfinished tender lines I write…
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

He loved

He loved three things in this world:

Evensong, peacocks of white,

And old tattered maps of America.

He despised it when little kids bawled,

Hated tea with preserves, and disliked

Women acting hysterical.

… And I was his wife.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

The fisherman

Bare arms, and eyes intent,

Ice-blue, they pull you in,

And like a tan, the pungent scent

Of tar befits your skin.

Your collar’s opened wide,

Your jacket shimmers blue.

The fisherwomen sigh

And blush on seeing you.

Even the girl who sells

Anchovies, mouth agape,

Strays stupefied as well,

Each evening on the cape.

Her frail arms - collapsed,

Her gaze is deep and spent,

She’s tickled by the crabs

That crawl out on the sand.

She doesn’t chase away

These crabs like she did prior

And blood beats more each day

She’s wounded by desire.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

Grey-eyed king

Inconsolable anguish, I hail your sting!

Yesterday died the grey-eyed king.

The autumn evening was stifling and red,

My husband returned and casually said:

“Back from the hunt, with his body they walked,

They found him lying beside the old oak.

I pity the queen. So young! Passed away!...

In the span of a night, her hair became grey.”

He found his pipe and wandered outside,

And went off to work, like he did every night.

My daughter’s asleep. I’ll bid her to rise,

Only to gaze at her grey-colored eyes.

Outside the window, the poplars unnerved,

Whisper: “Your king is no more on this earth…”
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

Evening room

These words I speak now come to me but once

To blossom in my soul and quickly fade.

A bee is buzzing, settling on white mums,

And there’s a musty smell of old sachet.

The room with narrow windows with precision

Recalls old times, preserves the love I knew.

Over the bed, there’s a French inscription,

That reads: “Seigneur, ayez pitie de nous”

My soul, I beg, don’t touch and don’t evoke

The hints of sorrow of some bygone tale…

I’ve noticed how the lustrous gleaming cloaks

Of Sevres statuettes grow dim and pale.

The final ray, so golden and so heavy,

Dies down in the dahlia’s bouquet,

As in a dream, I can make out already

A viol and a harpsichord duet.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

Masquerade in the park

The moon illuminates the eaves,

And skims the crests of waves at night…

The chilly hands of the marquise

Are fragrant, delicate and light.

“O Prince! – she curtsies and exhales, -

“In quadrille, you’re the vis-à-vis,” -

The mask conceals her turning pale

From burning love and ecstasy.

The entryway’s obscured by sloping

Poplar trees and hops that fell.

“Baghdad and Constantinople,

I will win for you, ma belle.”

“You are smiling so rarely,

That I’m frightened in advance!”

The cold pavilion is shady.

“Well then! Maybe, let us dance?”

They walk off and lanterns flicker

On the elm and maple trunks.

Clad in emerald, ladies bicker,

Betting gaily with the monks.

With azaleas, Pierrot,

Smirks and starts a friendly chat:

“Prince! Are you the one who broke

The feather on marquise’s hat?”
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

It’s late! I’m tired, I’m yawning

“It’s late! I’m tired, I’m yawning…”

“Mignon, lie down and rest,

For my slender mistress, I’m curling

This ginger wig by request.

Green ribbons with hang all around,

With a small pearl clasp on the side;

Her note read: ‘My mysterious Count,

Let us meet by the maple tonight!’

Under the lace of the mask,

She’ll hide her sly laughter away.

Not long ago, she even asked

To perfume her garters today.”

A ray of the morning fell, grazing

The top of her long black gown…

“He opened his arms to embrace me

By the maple, my mysterious Count.”
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

She longs for the forgotten moment

She longs for the forgotten moment

Of the springtime dream so sweet,

Like Perrette pines for the golden

Pitcher shattered at her feet…

She’s collected all the pieces,

But could not assemble them…

“If you only knew, Alisa,

Just how bored of life I am!

I won’t eat or drink, instead

I yawn through dinner in a drowse,

You’ll believe me, I forget

To pencil in neglected brows.

Oh Alisa! It’s such torture,

Bring him back, just him alone;

If you want to, take my fortune,

Take my gowns and my home.

In my dream, he wore a crown,

I am dreading nights like this!”

Alisa’s locket holds a brown

Lock of hair – guess, whose it is?!
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian