As for memories, they have three parts — the first is only yesterday when laughter is still heard, but our cheeks are wet—this part doesn’t last long. Already a different sun is over us; not far is an empty house, walls are frozen in March and in August humid, where spiders are dust and chairs are dust and doors, photographs are transformed into photographs, and people come to this house as to a cemetery, and, back at home, they wash their hands, breathing, not breathing. But the clock ticks, April becomes April, the sky is sky, cities change to cities, witnesses die, there is no neighbor to cry with, no face to spit at. And the our dead slowly walk from us, to our dead. Their return to us would be terrifying. We find we have forgotten even the highway number that led to the lonely house, and, choked with shame or anger, jump in the car and drive to it, but all (as in our sleep) is different: neighbors, chairs, walls, and no one sees us — we’re foreigners. We got off on the wrong highway exit and now we stand here and we realize that we could not contain this past in our lungs, our hands, it has become almost as foreign to us as a deaf neighbor in the next apartment is foreign. And yes, we would not recognize our own dead husbands, mothers, wives, children; and those whom God separated from us, got on splendidly without us — all is for the better…
Translated from the Russian by Ilya Kaminsky and Katie Farris
28 The Paris-American
Anna Akhmatova was a Russian modernist poet. A couple of her most celebrated poems include Requiem and Poem Without a Hero.
Ilya Kaminsky is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo) and co-editor of Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Harper Collins).
Katie Farris is the author of BOYSGIRLS (Marick Press) and co-translator of Guy Jean's "If I were Born in Prague" (Argos Books). She teaches at San Diego State Uniersity.