“—Could you describe this? And I said: —I can.”

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(poetry diary 88) Thinking a lot of Akhmatova’s “Requiem” today, a sequence of poems written in secret over many years. The poems condemn the Soviet Union’s Great Purge.

Requiem

Anna Akhmatova -Translated from the Russian by Alex Cigale

No, neither under an alien sky nor

Under the protection of alien wings—

I remained with my own people then,

Where my people, in their misfortune, were.

 

1961

Instead of a Preface

During the terrifying years of the Yezhov repressions, I spent seventeen months in Leningrad prison lines. One time, someone thought they recognized me. Then a woman standing behind me, who of course had never heard my name, stirred from her own, though common to all of us, stupor and asked in my ear (there, all spoke in a whisper):

—Could you describe this?

And I said:

—I can.

Then, something akin to a smile slipped across what once had been her face.

April 1, 1957, Leningrad

Read the rest of “Requiem”  at Project MUSE or PoemHunter. 

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