September 07, 2007


In my time I have had to flee twice.
As I fled I knew what I was running from and why.
I was standing at the window of a train watching the platform
sail past me, thinking of the morning’s friendly telephone call,
our own clumsily crafted lives.
Who could have guessed the content of my days, whispers,
guesses, real life omitted, just faint glimmers here & there, a hint
of it, some sign, some future which was never to be--
Residue of sleepless nights, little squares of the parquet floor--
my daughter, I felt I had to stay alive for her--
What documents was I keeping and where . . . .
Sometimes, in mid-conversation, silence, followed
with something mundane--“Would you like some tea?” “You’re
very tanned,” “Autumn came early this year--”
The bookcase, the writing desk, the clock--
chiseling out of this some beautiful and mournful ritual.

—Jane Satterfield

Requiem draws on descriptions of Akhmatova’s daily life described in Lydia
Chukovskaya’s The Akhmatova Journals (Volume 1: 1938-1941).
New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1994.

from Assignation at Vanishing Point (Elixir Press, 2003).
first appeared in Antioch Review.

Posted by dwaber at September 7, 2007 12:20 PM