Like a river, I was turned off course
By the cruel and brutal epoch.
My life was counterfeited and it flowed
Into another channel past the other channel.
I never got to know my native shores.
Oh, just how many spectacles I missed,
The curtains rose without me
And without me, fell. How many friends
Of mine, throughout my life, I never met
And just how many city skylines
Could have evoked my tears,
But I know just one city in the world,
And I can find it, blindfolded, in a dream.
How many poems I did not compose.
Their secret choir now encircles me
And, one fine day, perhaps, it may just
I know all the beginnings, all the ends,
And life after the end, and something else,
Which, at the present time, I will not mention.
There is some other woman who has taken
The only place that I once used to claim,
And now she bears my lawful name,
Leaving an alias for me, with which,
I've done the best I could have hoped to do.
The grave I'll lie in will not be my own.
But there are times when wild gusts of spring,
Or word arrangements in some casual book,
Or someone's smile suddenly will draw
Me back into the life that did not happen.
In such a year this could have happened,
And in such – this: to travel, ponder, see,
And to recall, and enter a new love,
Like entering a mirror, with blunt awareness
Of treason and the wrinkle that did not exist
A day ago...
But if, from that life that I've lost,
I could have looked and seen my present life,
At last, I'd know what envy truly is...
By Anna Akhmatova
Translation by Andrey Kneller