Anna Akhmatova – In Memory of M. B.

Anna Andreyevna Gorenko (June 11, 1889 – 05, March 1966) better known by the pen name Anna Akhmatova

Here is my gift, not roses on your grave,
not sticks of burning incense.
You lived aloof, maintaining to the end
your magnificent disdain.
You drank wine, and told the wittiest jokes,
and suffocated inside stifling walls.
Alone you let the terrible stranger in,
and stayed with her alone.
Now you’re gone, and nobody says a word
about your troubled and exalted life.
Only my voice, like a flute, will mourn
at your dumb funeral feast.
Oh, who would have believed that half-crazed I,
I, sick with grief for the buried past,
I, smoldering on a slow fire,
having lost everything and forgotten all,
would be fated to commemorate a man”
“so full of strength and will and bright inventions,
who only yesterday, it seems, chatted with me,
hiding the tremor of his mortal pain.

M.B. Are the initials Mikhail Bulgakov who was blacklisted by Stalin’s autocratic regime and therefore could not be written about or discussed in public.

Translated by Stanley Kunitz with Max Hayward