6 Poems from From a Burnt Notebook (Wild Roses in Bloom)



Анна Ахматова

And thou art distant in humanity.—Keats


Вместо праздничного поздравленья
Этот ветер жесткий и сухой
Принесет вам только запах тленья,
Привкус дыма и стихотворенья,
Что моей написаны рукой...



Уже красуется на книжной полке
Твоя благополучная сестра,
А над тобою звездных стай осколки
И под тобою угольки костра.
Как ты молила, как ты жить хотела.
Как ты боялась едкого огня,
Ио вдруг твое затрепетало тело,
А голос, улетая, клял меня.
И сразу все зашелестели сосны
И отразились в недрах лунных вод,
А вкруг костра священнейшие весны
Уже вели надгробный хоровод,



И  время прочь, и пространство прочь,
Я все разглядела сквозь белую ночь:
И нарцисс в хрустале у тебя на столе,
И сигары синий дымок,
И то зеркало, где. Как в чистой воде,
Ты сейчас отразиться мог.
И время прочь, и пространство прочь…
Но и ты мне не можешь помочь.


По той дороге, где Донской

Вел рать великую когда-то,
Где ветер помнит супостата,
Где месяц желтый и рогатый,—
Я шла, как в глубине морской…
Шиповник так благоухал,
Что даже превратился в слово,
И встретить я была готова
Моей судьбы девятый вал,















Вижу я, лебядь тешится моя!


Ты напрасно мне под ноги мечешь
И величье, и славу, и власть,
Знаешь сам, что не этим излечишь
Песнопения светлую страсть.

Разве этим развеешь обиду?
Или золотом лечат тоску?
Может быть, я и сдамся для виду,
Не притронусь я дулом к виску.

Смерть стоит все равно у порога,
Ты гони ее или зови.
А за нею темнеет дорога,
По которой ползла я в крови,

А за нею десятилетья
Скуки, страха и той пустоты,
О которой могла бы пропеть я,
Да боюсь, что расплачешься ты.

Что ж, прощай.  Я живу не в пустыне,
Ночь со мной и всегдашняя Русь.
Так спаси же меня от гордыни,
В остальном я сама разберусь.

Six Poems from From a Burnt Notebook (Wild Roses in Bloom)

Anna Akhmatova, trans. Donald Mager

And thou art distant in humanity.—Keats

Excerpt from a Dedication

Instead of festive well-wishing
This stiff dry wind offers only
The reek of decomposition,
The savor of smoke and verses
That my hand wrote.


From A Burnt Notebook

Already beautiful on the bookshelf
Your well-situated sister is set,
But over you is debris of starry hoards
And under you are fiery coals.
How you prayed, how you wanted to live,
How you dreaded the scathing fire,
But all at once your body began trembling,
And your voice, flying off, swore at me.
And just like that, the pines began to rustle
Making reflections in the deep moonlit water,
While around the fires of the sacred spring
Already you led the round-dance across the graves.



Be done with time, be done with space,
I perceived it all through the white night:
The narcissus in the crystal on your table,
The blue smoke of your cigar,
And that mirror, where, like pure water,
You might now be reflected.
Be done with time, be done with space…
But you no longer can be of help to me.


On the road where Donskoi

Once led his great army,
Where the wind recalls the enemy,
Where the moon is yellow with horns,—
I passed along as if in a deep sea…
Even the fragrance of wild roses
Was metamorphosed into words,
And I was ready to meet
The seventh onslaught of my destiny.


You are with me again, my autumn-friend!—In. Annenskii

Let who chooses, loll in the south
And pamper themselves in paradise gardens.
Here is the real north—and autumn is
The companion I choose this year.

I live, as if in a strange imaginary house,
Where, it may be, I have died.
And it seems, Finnish reflections
Appeared in its blank mirrors.

I walk among black stubby firs,
Where heather resembles the wind.
And the glow of the moon is lusterless silver
Like a Finnish saw-edged knife.

Here I carried the happy memories
Of the last non-meeting with you—
The cold, clean, unquenched flame
Of my triumph over destiny.


I see, my swan amuses herself!—Pushkin

In vain you cast at my feet
Greatness and fame and power.
You know yourself that it will not heal
Poetry’s luminous obsessions.

Will it cancel out slanders?
Will gold heal tedium?
It may be that I’ll give up in pretense,
But I’ll aim no muzzle at my brow.

Regardless, death stands at the door,
Whether you drive it off or invite it.
Behind it the road grows dark,
Along which I crawled in blood.

And behind that decades
Of tedium and terror and the void
Of which I’d go hoarse singing,
But fear, would avenge you with tears.

Goodbye for now.  I do not live in a desert,
I have with me the constancy of night
And Russia, save me from boasting,
And what’s left I’ll handle myself.


The Ellis–Lak edition’s 1962 version from БЕГ ВРЕМЕНИ (The Flight of Time):  Ахматова, Анна Андреевна. Сование Сочнеий В Шести Томах. [Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna.  Complete Works in Six Volumes. Ed. T. A. Gorkova. Moscow: Ellis–Lak [Эллис Лак], 1998–2005: 4, 370–380.


3 Poems by Jacqueline Balderrama



oscuro [ohs-coo-ro] adjective:

And color is the first reason
it seems I must learn Spanish.

Much is left in dark waters after light.
Light warps into water’s quivering patterns.

There are different kinds of desire under this red umbrella,
beneath the slender trees.



rueda [rru-eh-tha] noun (f):

To make pinwheels and paper rosettes, I’m told
to begin with squares and rectangles, pulling

edges into the center. They spin like they have forgotten
this origin of steps. We too forget our feet.



huerta [wear-tah] noun (f):

I could live in this garden.

With fruit trees, with vegetables,
this is a working land.

Think of soup—as a child pulling leaves, berries, grass,
the child stirring a pail for dinner.


4 Poems by Scott Hightower


The 1812 Campaign Uniform

“Have a look at it tomorrow and see what you think”—Natasha Rostova

You and I play Lucy
to one another's Ricky,

Josephine to one another's Bonaparte,
Cleopatra to one another's Antony,

Enkidu to one another's
Gilgamesh. Watching  

another mini–series
of Tolstoy's War and Peace,

we lament the 1812 baggage train.
The numbers are hard to fathom:

two million pairs of boots
held in reserve at Danzig.

Four hundred fifty thousand conquerors
crossing the Niemen in June; only

twenty thousand frostbitten and famished,
tottering back over, come December.

When the retreat sets out, baggage
will be hauled by eighteen thousand

heavy draft horses; the siege-guns
and pontoons, by ten thousand oxen.

A million greatcoats will have been bought
from the West Riding of Yorkshire,

helping the English woolen trade
in a time of desperate need.

However, Napoleon will have sought
to cut the cost of these coats

by ordering tin buttons
instead of brass ones.

Painful to imagine
all those obedient men

trying to retreat from Moscow
in the November snow;

him not knowing that at low
temperatures tin undergoes

an allotropic transformation
and turns to dust.


Neptuno Snug Harbor

Here the Lord of the Sea
is atop a serpent

and his spear is majestically
raised and poised to strike.

Originally, cast in zinc
and painted bronze

to curb the overall

Just like Napoleon
and those damned

tin buttons, penny–wise,
others’ eternity foolish.


The Chairs

“Us with groanings too deep for words."—Romans 8:26

As clear as a plow’s silvery gash,
an awful lesson in dominion;

were an alert teacher present,
it might have proven a teachable

moment. The elders of the local
church will not see

fit to lend us––its own
fledglings––folding chairs.

When a muscle in the back of my leg
tears, neither the coach, nor the three

others in the relay, realize––nor care––
that pain will hound me my entire

life. Belief clings. Faith lets go.
When I see Robert Mitchum

in Ryan’s Daughter stepping
behind the dressing screen the night

of his wedding, I understand his
uninspired hand, finding its way

up the bedspread to his bride’s back,
abandoned in the char of paradise.


West Side Maria


My sister sits                            on my bed

by the window,                        in a blue skirt    

with a fuchsia                          petticoat,

a soft lavender                         top, and cerulean         

shoes. We sing.                        Our differences

are interesting,                         but our likenesses

are more important.                Her sorrow sinks    

into white                                 lace curtains.

Anybody’s love                        is their life.